Some may remember that a little while ago we teamed up with Sound Schooling to offer free audio lessons for some lucky Dressage Anywhere members. Ruth from our team had a go with a couple of the lessons and here's what she had to say.
First, a little bit about me and my horse. Geoff is a 14.2hh cob aged 11 and over the years we've done a bit of everything but settled on dressage as our discipline of choice. Geoff is rather quirky, not really built for dressage and prefers to do an impression of a llama when in the competition arena. We usually compete at Prelim and Novice levels. So I was rather excited to have a go with the Sound Schooling lessons. We tried the Basic Warm-Up (Prelim/Novice) and Developing Suppleness & Impulsion (Novice/Elementary).
At first I wondered how it would be possible to listen to a lesson and keep up - I had visions of faffing with my iPhone trying to frantically pause between movements but I thought the speed was just right. I used an iPhone with one headphone in an ear but if you're concerned about safety it would be possible to hear the lesson on an MP3 player in your pocket or attached to a stereo near the arena.
Because of his quirks I liked to think that my warm-up techniques were fairly well practised but I learnt a few things here - take the time to warm-up focussing on your own position and not just the horse. I always have a tendency to try and solve problems with the horse first without thinking about what I'm doing on top and how much that affects his way of going. The exercises were simple but well talked through and there's reassurance throughout that you go at your own speed and at the level that you feel comfortable with.
I found all of the exercises really straight forward and incredibly useful and at the end of the session Geoff was supple, forward and on the aids.
I then moved onto the Developing Suppleness & Impulsion lesson and found that the warm-up had been just right - our contact was more established and he was actually listening to me. There's some useful tips at each stage to help explain what might be going wrong and what you can do about it. We had a bit of a wobble with counter canter which seemed to get a little fast at times so we had to pause the audio at this point and work on getting him back on the aids.
This lesson dealt with the beginnings of lateral work which we struggle with at the best of times - our leg yield is more of a sideways banana shuffle. The explanations were spot on and we were turning on the forehand in preparation for leg yield in no time. Each time the exercises began in walk explaining what should happen, what you should feel and reminded you to check your position and alignment. We moved onto some sitting trot exercises in preparation for lengthening the trot stride and although Geoff has a tendency to rush when I ask for a bit more, he was a little more on his hocks and with a more established contact he was able to stay in balance. During our warm-down Geoff had a lovely swing in his back and was stretching on a long rein.
If like me, lessons are a couple of weeks apart these audio lessons are a good way of providing a focus to your schooling sessions. Although I don't use them every time we school I've found some of the exercises have really stuck with me and at those times when I need an extra bit of help, I play them again either in the car on the way to work or during a schooling session.
For more information visit the Sound Schooling website.