Sunday, July 24, 2016

How To "Cheat" At Third Level

So, it's now Show Week, and guess who hasn't been practicing half pass or flying changes because it's hot as balls?

"Don't try to blame me for this, I thought we were just doing Hunter Paces now."

Luckily, my trainer has decided that I'm absolutely not allowed to screw up at shows anymore and has me in "boot camp". That means I'm getting several lessons before the show whether I want them or not, instead of my usual "I don't need help, I got this!"  

In my last lesson he asked me to half pass to the rail in trot, because it's part of the test. Instead, we aimlessly floundered in the general direction of the rail. I was like, "We.. uh... haven't really done this in awhile." His response: "I noticed."

After a couple more failed attempts, he said, "Let's try something else.... Turn down the quarter line like you're going to half pass, but leg yield instead."

So, I turned right down the near quarter line and then leg yielded left. "No, no, no! Leg yield like you would half pass!" Me: "..... Huh?"

Trainer: "Turn down the quarter line, like you're going to half pass, but leg yield instead. To the rail!" 

Me: "........ So, turn right, then leg yield right?"


*light bulb goes on*

This is, by the way, opposite of how one usually leg yields in dressage, hence my confusion. But, we tried it and nailed it. After a few times doing that in both directions, my trainer had me subtly change the bend in the leg yield. It wasn't a full half pass, but it's enough to get a 5. Obviously, we're going to work on getting an actual half pass back and not just cheating our way through, but if push comes to shove and I don't have enough oomph for a real half pass at the show, it never hurts to fake it 'til you make it. 

Then we moved to those pesky changes. The change has always been a challenge for Spider. He came to me with a very lovely automatic change: any time you changed direction, he automatically changed his lead. Unfortunately, that is not what we're looking for in dressage. I spent years convincing him to change when I wanted him to, and not when he thought he should. Now that he's older, and not as fit, he's developed a tendency to change where I ask him to, but late behind. 

The solution to this was more leg yielding, this time at the canter. Same exercise, but this time I knew what was coming so there was no awkward "... Huh?" conversation.  

So, the exercise was canter down the near quarter line, straighten out, leg yield in the same direction you turned down quarter line, ask for change when you hit the rail.  I would never have thought of this solution, it is not in any of the books, but it worked! Why did it work? I'm still working that one out in my head, but I'm thinking it has to do with engaging the outside hind leg and me setting up and using my aids for the flying change more effectively. I'll work out the "why" later so I can use it to get the changes correctly... for Thursday, I'll be doing a leg yield into my change. The changes in my test are called for across the diagonal, and a judge at C can't see that I'm leg yielding into the change. 

Fake it 'til you make it, y'all.  


  1. You have a good trainer. There are all kinds of little tricks like that to improve a test. Glad to know you are working with someone who has the knowledge and experience to teach you a lot of them. Good going.

  2. Took me awhile to figure out why I could get good changes from a half pass and not anywhere else, but I think for us it was related to responsiveness off the old outside/new inside leg. In the half pass, he's listening to it. And it makes the jump better, leading to a cleaner change. Also, the shoulders are in the right place. Ugh. Changes are so complicated!

    Good luck!


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