Friday, 5 February 2016

Dressage Weekend Part IV

Part I
Part II
Part III

Part IV - Sunday Simulator Lesson with Kerry

Sunday morning I woke up to a layer of fresh snow. Not much, but enough to make me glad I wasn't hauling! (My car has better winter tires than my truck)

View from my hotel room when I woke up
I drove out for another lesson with Kerry on the simulator. This session was really just building on our last session, so nothing earth-shattering. But we did discuss some new theories and I got some new hints on improving my position.


Think of the horse always being ridden in a corridor. It can be a straight corridor or a curved corridor but it's always a narrow pathway.

Think of the horse's back as a suspension bridge. If I let my body shift to either side I start to swing the suspension bridge and essentially that messes everything else up.

Aids for half pass and canter are similar. (I was really asking about this, because I want to make sure I develop a precise aid for canter now that won't be confused with other aids in the future) Move the inside leg farther forward for half pass than canter. Also for the half pass aid you are asking for it while bringing the shoulder over to the side with rein. Finally, the canter aid involves an up movement with the rider's hips and the half pass aid doesn't.

Pulling up the drive to the stables - mine were the first tracks in the snow

Position (some of this is repeated from Saturday's session)

- Don't push head/chin forward
- Elbows in
- Closed hands, including bottom two fingers
- Keep shoulders rolled back
- Stack blocks straight up
- Don't let lower leg turn out or move forward
- Shoulder-in aids were better today
- Half-halts better today
- Careful about not shifting to the right* - I was really struggling with this today, see end of post for why!

As well as transitions and position work, we played around with some of the simulator's other capabilities during this lesson.

Such an exciting photo that you get to see it yet again!


We did some 3-tempi and 4-tempi changes for fun. This was good practice as I had to focus on both the counting and my position at the same time. When I got too focused on one part, the other would suffer. I won't be doing tempi changes in real life anytime soon but we all know that you frequently need to multi-task while riding a flesh and blood horse, so it was good to try and keep my position while worrying about something else at the same time. 


We played around a bit with passage/piaffe. This was purely for fun and won't really have any relevance to my real riding. We couldn't quite figure out what combination of aids was required to get piaffe out of the simulator but we did lots of passage. We also had a good laugh at some of the exaggerated things I was trying to do with my seat and legs to attempt to get the piaffe.

I got there a bit early so made friends with
one of the resident dogs while I was waiting

Test Ride

For most of the sessions we used the simulator program "Instruction Ride" where the screen just shows all of the sensor feedback and tells you what gait you're in. The simulator also has two other modes: "Free Ride" and "Test Ride". In these, there's actually a ring on the screen and you can steer and move around it, much like a video game. For the "Test Ride", it tells you at the top what movement you're supposed to be doing and you have to execute it reasonably successfully before it will let you move on to the next movement. I will say that the "tests" on the simulator do not even slightly resemble the USEF or Equine Canada tests - e.g. it made me do a canter serpentine with simple changes in training level. Again, like the tempi changes, the test ride was good practice at maintaining my position while paying attention to steering, instructions, getting movements at the right letter, etc. It was definitely distracting. I couldn't get the horse to rein back in a straight line for the life of me, and our simple changes resulted in a few halts, but I succeeded at staying in the ring and apparently that's more than most people manage on their first attempt at a test ride. I could see this mode being fun to play around with if I had more time on the simulator. 

Automated Training Ride

In Part I, I mentioned how we did an automated test ride to kick the weekend off. We did a second one at the very end to see if I had changed. My rogue right leg improved greatly! 

Day 1 for reference

Day 3

My seat was actually a little worse; however, when I got off at the end, I saw that my saddle was crooked on the simulator, which is probably why I felt like I was constantly being pulled to the right. On a real horse, when the girth is tightened on one side, it becomes tighter all the way around. However on the simulator, the left and right "girth straps" are fixed independently on either side. So when Kerry had well-meaningly tightened my "girth" half way through the session, it actually made it 2 holes tighter on the right than the left and was pulling my saddle off-centre. I take responsibility for not realizing and fixing this sooner. I'm frustrated with myself because I feel I wasted half the session fighting with my crooked position, when the problem wasn't my position at all. Oh well, chalk it up to a learning experience and a mistake I won't make again.

Beautiful property

Overall the weekend was very educational and fun. I think it's exactly what I needed to break out of the riding rut I've been in. I also have lots of new phrases that I can put in my Mantras =)

Have you ever ridden a simulator? Or taken another unorthodox approach to improve your riding?

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