Academic dressage is something me and Nemah has been doing for a long time. The most significant difference between ordinary dressage and the academic one is that the academic focuses a lot on the rider. As a rider you are supposed to help the horse perform the best it can, with the smallest aids you can give. Ofter just a millimetre of shift in your weight is enough to get the horse to do what you want. A big part is also not letting the horse use the rider's arms as a fifth leg. You ride with a very light contact with the horse's mouth, if any.
I've been riding academic dressage since I bought Nemah. I usually ride these lessons bareback to get as I read her signals better without a saddle. Our instructor is Suzanne Cewe.
Today's exercise was the "Irish four-leaf clover", which is ridden like this:
- You start on the center line and make your horse go in a shoulder in to the left.
- Turn to the left on a volte, still in the shoulder in.
- When you return to the center line you ride straight on for a bit and then ride your horse in a half pass to the left.
- Make a new circle in half pass and when you are back on the centre line you cross it and make a right shoulder in on a circle to the right.
- Once back on the center line you ride straight for a few steps and then you ride a half pass to the right on a volte.
When you return to the center line you ride your horse in a shoulder in to the left agan. And then you do this over and over again until perfection.
It took me some time to get control over my body, I very easily bend my inner side to try to help Nemah. This does not help her at all, rather the opposite. I also get a bit panicky when she doesn't turn where I want her to and start steering with the reins. After some trial and error we found that I find it easier to think of where the hind legs should go. In the shoulder in I should turn by letting the hind legs drift outwards and in the half pass I turn with the hind legs inwards. And then I naturally know which shoulder should go where. When I figured this out it went more smoothly, but still not perfect.
One of our biggest problem is when Nemah starts trotting away from me. My instinct is to try to stop her by pulling the reins, but what I really should do is to try to get her to put more weight on her hind legs and start carrying herself more. This is of course quite hard. Other things I also need to get better at are to relax and loosen my hips and let my legs fall straight down.