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Seatbones, Half Halts and Stretchy Circles

July 19, 2011

When my dressage trainer asked “What do you want to do today?”, I knew right away: “Stretchy circles”.  As I begin to think about the Training Level tests, they are the most confusing to me.

As we prepared for the stretchy circles, the DT gave me several comments on my position: there is not even weight on my seatbones. I sit heavily on my right seatbone and then lean left.  I do this especially when tracking right.  As I work on circles, I need to think about keeping even weight on both seat bones, my eyes looking straight ahead, but my hips turn towards the inside of the circle.

Whew! That is like patting my head and rubbing my belly at the same time.  It’s also confusing, especially as I was originally taught to look towards the inside of a circle.

To get to our stretchy circle, we started working on improved connection at the walk.

“Carly needs to keep up to follow your seat – you don’t change to accommodate her.”

That sentence just blew my mind.  I am always thinking that I need to change myself – more leg or less hand – to get her to do what I want.  More and more, though, I see that I must do less so she can do more.

At the walk, we practiced sending her forward with my leg and then doing a half halt with my hands to catch her front end and keep her in the box.  I like the image of Carly’s body being a box – the shoulders are one corner and her butt is another corner. For the box to be a box, those ends must be level.  The idea of a see saw also works well for me.  I want my see saw to be so perfectly level that I can sit in the middle and neither end will fall up or down.  In fact, this is the favorite part of my dressage lesson – as the DT talks me through the aids, I feel both Carly’s body and my body reshaping as we become more connected, more balanced, more supple.

As we got the balance at the walk, we moved on to the trot and stretchy circles.  We needed to be moving within the box before going on to the stretchy circles.  I slowly let out my reins, working in half halts and suppling, reminding Carly to keep her shoulders up and stay round.  “It’s like you are crocheting or knitting – you’re creating something and if you stop, then it will unravel,” my DT called out.  After several minutes, her head had dropped down so low that her nose was even with her knees.   The stretchy circle is much different than I imagined – her head needs to be much lower than I ever thought. As I think about it, it makes sense – the stretchy circle is in some ways, a trot version of the free walk.

While I had asked to learn to do stretchy circles, the real take away from this lesson was how to improve our balance and use my seatbones.  In fact, we concluded on seatbones as I tried to get Carly to transition to a walk just by stilling my seatbones and sinking deeper into the saddle.  It worked!  I can’t wait to practice this on my own.

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