If you've had a look at my 'Authentic Balance Acid Test' ebook, you'll have seen that one of the exercises is about being able to manage your horse's bend and direction without relying on the outside rein (yes, this is pretty unconventional in conventional dressage practice! See the ebook for my explanation: https://www.becomeoneacademy.com/free-ebook).
The ultimate test of this is probably the shoulder-in, where the outside rein is so commonly used to make up for a lack of true yielding from the inside leg, and good postural weight control from the rider
So I thought I'd put my money where my mouth is, so to speak, and show you a little clip of me riding a shoulder-in with Zouzou, with a very soft outside (and inside!) rein.
This shoulder-in is, of course, far from perfect - there are lots of things to correct in my riding and in Zouzou, but what I want to show you is the reality of riding a shoulder-in without holding the horse together and making him stick to the straight line with the outside rein.
Instead I am really addressing the degree of yielding from my inside leg that Zouzou is capable of, and in doing so improving his suppleness and postural strength far more than would be done by riding a perfect shoulder-in along the track with the help of the outside rein.
You can see that at one point he really comes against my inside leg, and we lose the line of the shoulder-in, but that's fine, I just work through it as much as I can and we continue.
Schooling in this way is much more fluid, creative and genuinely rewarding than sticking to rigid figures and predetermined parameters, because it's all about following your feel and staying in the moment with your horse.
Zouzou (coming up for 19 years old) is in a long-term rehab and re-training process after a competitive eventing career that left him with quite severe joint damage (diagnosed permanently lame). His ribcage was particularly unyielding and stiff, along with his spine and pelvis, so he's made pretty good progress so far.
Prioritising gymnastic quality over precision in the training process is a definite conscious choice we have to make, and it doesn't come easily to the ego in particular!
So I hope that in showing this less-than-perfect clip it will help some of you have more confidence in following that route in your riding, and to let go of 'keeping up appearances'!
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