Dressage vs. Eventing

While the thoughts were still in my head I have decided to jot down some observations that I’ve had while working on the flat with Wanda over the last few weeks.

She’s really coming into her own and is quite a little powerhouse. Always a pony that enjoys her work and tries her best for you which always leaves me with a big smile on my face.

I’ve been working with the Dressage trainer Matt Cox http://www.mcdressage.co.uk/ who comes to teach me at home where we are lucky enough to have a surface to ride on. I have a great working relationship with him and we have similar ideas and approaches for training. It works as he gives me enough time to work out what my arms, body and legs should be doing and Matt has the ability to make small changes if things aren’t working immediately so that both Wanda and I have a real feel for new lateral work movements.

Over the last 3 sessions we have been working on leg yield, shoulder in, travers and half pass in trot plus medium trot and canter and simple changes off 2 half 10m circles.

Wanda moves well off the leg and at first we slowed her trot tempo down a little so she had time to work out where her legs were going (and to help me ensure I was asking correctly). She soon was producing some really pleasing shoulder in and from that huge medium trot work with great transitions into and from the medium.

I’ve learnt even more about my little horse than I suspected. The flatwork has shown a big improvement in the quality of her canter which in turn has developed her balance around corners into fences. I’d also say that she is moving more softly in her carriage and really bending through her ribcage. I can also feel a difference in the way she uses her shoulders and there is definitely more freedom there – not sure if that’s a schooling improvement or through using a new Fairfax girth!

The main thing I’ve learnt is that Wanda does have what I’d call a ‘tipping point’. Too much medium work and she charges off down every long side… too much lateral and she can get quite strong. So this week Matt and I tweaked our approach. If she did something well we would leave it there or change reins and do the opposite. If there was something she was finding tricky, say left half pass, I would open her trot and frame up and trot a large circle or two, relax her and then continue.

This approach really worked for me and at the end of the lesson I was doing some of the best simple changes and canter-halts I think I have ever done. J

Today I was short of time as work and kids took over so I decided to lunge her in an Equi Ami http://www.equiami.com/  This is similar to a Pessoa lunging aid but is far more fluid and soft. She normally goes well in this and I wanted to watch her from the ground as I hadn’t really since I was pregnant.

It was a really useful exercise, despite being short of time. I could see that my hard work has paid off. Wanda has so much more balance and self carriage. Some really pleasing work again.

So I’ve been left with a slight confusion. Eventing is my first love but I’ve got really excited by doing Dressage and the schooling that’s involved. It’s hard to do both so  I’ve planned is a series of 4-5 BD competitions before the eventing season starts so I can try to qualify Wanda for Novice BD regionals (she is already doing Prelim Winter Regionals). Following this I will try to mix the dressage in between events and will definitely be riding her at Elementary level as I’d really like more of a challenge and I think we would thrive well under a bit more pressure. Exciting times for us both. Logistically it’s a nightmare trying to fit in work and the kids but having Matt as a coach has given me the confidence that we are more than capable of achieving a great deal.

Muddy Wanda lunging in the sun today
Muddy Wanda lunging in the sun today




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