When I first started working with Lucy and her owner, Jane, Lucy had spent several years hacking. During this time, she had done very little schooling and had learnt to fix her neck and shoulder against her rider, making her quite stiff and tight.
We took the ridden work back to basics, starting with circle work to give her and Jane an opportunity to work without Lucy fixing her neck and jaw. Alongside the ridden work began a programme of in hand work to help Lucy become more and introduce new ideas and exercises in a way that taught Lucy not to fix her neck and to familiarise her with the exercise before doing them when ridden.
We began the in-hand work using a cavesson so that when Lucy started to push forward and lean, Jane was able to be firm and keep Lucy’s energy from propelling her onto her forehand. It had an immediate effect in the ridden work where Jane was able to keep a light hand and ride Lucy more from her seat and legs.
Once they were both confident with the positioning and aids on circles, we introduced shoulder-in, keeping the angle shallow so Lucy could maintain an even angle with a uniform bend on both reins and not twist her neck or push forward.
As the in-hand work improved so did the ridden work. The exercises trained in walk were repeated in trot, and because Lucy was more supple, balanced and responsive, Jane was able to use this flexibility to keep Lucy straight and light.
Over the next few months we continued to develop the in-hand work along with the ridden work with shoulder-in through a corner, half pass, renvers (see picture right), rein back and slow trot. Jane’s growing knowledge allowed her to rectify problems as they occurred, so she was able to maintain control without losing Lucy’s confidence. Lucy is light in the hand, she engages her haunches and lightens her forehand holding the movements for herself.
Now in her 20’s, and with Jane's dedication to the work, Lucy still performs lateral movements with ease and precision. Pictures below (left) show shoulder-in and (right) shoulder-in on a circle.
Diane Followell Classical Dressage Trainer