Drapery in Dressage: Sheers, Brocades, or Strictly Decorative?

This episode of TLH brought to you by Lee, from Confessions of a Struggling Dressage Rider, and Shaun, who graciously took pictures, happily clueless that they show Jane with an independent seat.  That she doesn’t want anyone to see.  Ever.

My job, 2 or 3 days a week was to ride Hudson low level dressage-ish (hang on to the ish, we’re going to use it in a visual aid).  It was cross training to his roping training.  No circles, nothing that might put stress on his joints.  My job was to relax him, get him stretchy and rhythmic, ask him to put his head down, lift his back and swing.

My trainer says I have a quiet seat.  Hudson scoffed: obviously she isn’t underneath you. My seat never shut up.  To Hudson, my seat was an unpredictable, anxiety causing monster that suddenly demanded weird moves with no warning.

I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I asked him to pick up a left lead in front and right lead behind.  Extremely uncomfortable for us both.  Or, since I tend to weight one seat bone more, we’d start a walk spiral in, and then suddenly shoot off on an opposite lead canter when I over-adjusted.

We could empty an arena in seconds.

The Ish in full exposure:

We’re walking on the buckle.  I’d just given him the seat aid to turn left so we wouldn’t get too close to Shaun, it’s not the collapsed looking left side.  Although, come to think of it, it shouldn’t look collapsed. Dang you, dropped shoulder!


This is my “draped” leg position on H.

Classic Dressage-Ish riding.

I’ve got a lot of work to do.  Obviously I decided to go with no window coverings at all.

Shaun is clicking away, nicely documenting all my flaws.  (I got a ton of pictures you can frame and hang!  Wait till you see!)

Shaun said, “Can you show me his tricks?”.  Her voice was happy.  WHOA.  She got excited. About a horse.  I need to produce a trick!  Probably “watch the vanishing carrot” isn’t what she means.  I frantically flip through my English to Horse translator book.  Oh.  She wants me to do something visually impressive.

Falling off, while visually impressive, is probably not a good idea.  I drop the reins on Hudson’s neck, put my hands on my thighs,  and do a turn on the forehand.  Circle left, circle right, do a turn on the haunches, leg yield across the diagonal.

“When are you going to do something?” Shaun asks, cheerfully.

Right.  Non-horse person.  What to do…?  I drop my inside hip and we instantly go into a nice canter, reins still on neck.

I glance at Shaun, causing Hudson to determine I’ve asked for a 10 M circle at the canter. He dutifully starts the collected canter circle.  Shaun  is still waiting for the show.  Fine. We come out of the circle, I loosen my seat and we tear up the long side of the arena, gallop throttle open wide.

I cue to halt.  We stop dead, instantly, reins still on neck. Butt slightly tucked, ready to move in any direction.  Ooooo.  Bonus! He’s square.

“Um.  That’s  it?” says Shaun.  “Just riding?”

It’s going to be an uphill educational process.

The dinner truck rumbles up the hill to Hudson’s paddock, alfalfa at nose height, inches from the arena rail.  He’s quivering.  ACK.  I can’t move.  If I relax, tense up, signal movement in any form, Hudson is not beyond a little “oops, sorry, misunderstood the signal”.  We’ll hit the gas, take the 4 foot rail,  and ambush the dinner truck.  Hudson has food issues.  (We were made for each other.)

Quick!  Pick up the reins!

You may as well see all my flaws.  When I finally do pick up the reins, my hands are in my lap.  In Every. Single. Photo.

Even when he’s thinking about bucking.  Groan.

Okay okay, trainer, here we come.

Sorry, apparently galloping flat out with no reins around the arena looks boring to a non-horse person.  No photos.

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17 thoughts on “Drapery in Dressage: Sheers, Brocades, or Strictly Decorative?

  1. lizgoldsmith

    How lucky you are to have a horse that listens to your seat! Soon he’ll have you trained to talk in his language! Kroni was a horse that only listened if you asked him the “right” way.

    As for reins, I don’t care for the reins with loops. I’ve tried them because I also have the problems of letting my reins get long. The problem is you need different lengths for different gaits. A dressage trainer once told me that he had rein stops sewn into his reins at the right lengths on his reins. Pretty smart way to go.

    The same instructor used to have us cool out our horses with no reins but steering by weighting your seat bones or stepping on one stirrup. He explained that a horse likes to keep under your weight so if you shift, the horse will follow. We did all kinds of fancy moves.

    If you still want to try the looping reins let me know — you can try mine :). They are somewhere at the bottom of my tack trunk.

    Reply
    1. theliteraryhorse Post author

      Bella must have read this post, she quietly joined me the other night. She was working Dinero, and she helped me get my hands out of my lap. Hudson’s a big guy, and those reins feel mighty short if I have the rein length right, but he’s not connected. She helped me find the feel with accurate collection and softening. I marked the “trot-spot” on my reins with a hair tie! Since that’s the middle spot, I can figure out walk and canter from there.

      Essentially, she gave me a terrific lesson (Thanks Bella!!) and I finally got the plug in the socket feel back.

      I warm up and cool down exactly like your instructor suggested (unless H happened to be topped of with nitrogen that day). I think consciously riding the walk as well as you can cures almost everything. 🙂

      Reply
  2. theliteraryhorse Post author

    Mmmmph…these har therrific Honuts, here!
    Totally unhorrified by those reins. Drooling over the possibility there’s an aid to get it right. Thanks for sharing! Bookmarked.

    I’ll have to settle for red string at the moment. Yum, we luv Top Ramen. Have you ever tried it with ketchup? I’m working on variety.

    Next up on tack will be a new-used bridle (only horse people know that is not an oxymoron) that is wide enough for him. If you look closely at the pictures, you’ll see I replaced the too tight brow band with a lovely polar-fleece number I whipped up on my Singer. Classy.

    Reply
  3. Marissa

    I don’t know how any of you ladies ride with your stirrups that darn long to begin with. I do flat with my stirrups 2.5 holes shorter than my jumping length, but I’m pretty sure that if I attempted to flat with my stirrups that long (assuming I didn’t just fall right off), I’d end up standing on my toes and pitching my entire upper body toward my horse’s lovely ears. Which, as you know, is really the *key* to getting any horse to engage his hind end. Grab his ears! That’ll fix it! Sigh.

    Thank you so much for sharing the pictures with us. Don’t despair about your position, you’re smiling and that’s what really counts! And I commiserate regarding rein length. I recently took a lesson and was told that if I can feel my fuzzy saddle pad, my reins are too long. I believe that means I suffer from both burying my hand *and* letting my reins get too long. At least your hands are elevated! See, that? Glass half full!

    I adore the look in Hudson’s eye in all these photos, by the way. He looks like he’s humoring us, and our silly human antics.

    Reply
    1. theliteraryhorse Post author

      The look you see in his eye is totally Hudson. I adore him, and he is his own man for sure. He is a guy’s guy. Reserved, suspends judgement or hides it, disregards anything overly emotional as not applicable to him.

      He’s grumbling: “stupid girlie stuff. Pink! She’s wearing PINK on me. No guy would haul me out of the paddock right before dinner. Females.”

      He humors me a lot. He’s still waiting for roping practice to resume.

      The stirrups cracked me UP. When I tired hunt seat on Melody, I thought, how do you ladies ride with your knees around your ears?? I’m gonna hit myself in the teeth with my irons! In the photos, I’m riding a hole shorter than would be technically correct for him, because I want to stay off his back until I get a little more fitness back.

      The glass is half full: I have elevated hands! I know I’m crooked! I know I’m out of shape! I know he detests pink! I know I’m a little too casual about the direction my thumbs are pointing! Hmm. Those have hidden negatives. I’m HAPPY. He’s a blast! I’ll get “it” back.

      Maybe I can get Shaun to take pics of me riding bareback, you’ll see a much more correct position. Or a lump on the ground with a lot of dust poofing up from it.

      Reply
    2. dressage rider

      Marissa, I still don’t have a real dressage leg. I was H/J first and still like a shorter stirrup. Actually, my left leg likes the stirrup and my right loaths it.

      I’m always hearing that I need more contact too. H/J again? Maybe…

      Reply
  4. dressage rider

    NOT fair to make me laugh OUT LOUD while *cough* working. I loved every word and I’m honored to have inspired you. Keep sharing photos please. It makes me feel better. 🙂

    Reply
    1. theliteraryhorse Post author

      Oh, you have no idea. My only real talent is good balance, and (usually) a good ‘read’ on the horse.
      My two big problems are (drum roll) stirrups and reins. (I crack myself up.) Take away my stirrups and I ride 100% better. Give me stirrups and I’m a moron. Reins: I blame Black Beauty. Stay off their mouths no matter what, even when you want contact! Give them their heads, poor things try so hard! No Beauty, no, here take the reins!
      *sigh*

      Reply
      1. dressage rider

        Totally high jacking the comments here. I have a problem with rein length/contact too! Constantly hearing “Shorten your reins. Shorter.” and “There shouldn’t be a loop in the reins.” As a H/J I didn’t ride with contact! It doesn’t seem right. Then I get it and boy what a feeling!

        Reply
        1. theliteraryhorse Post author

          My trainer was horrified when I asked if I could use her rainbow reins during a lesson. I felt like I just wasn’t *getting* it, and having a huge visual cue (orange cone, anyone?) might help. Her response?

          Shocked voice: “Oh NO, you are way to advanced for those. I can’t give you those! You’ll look like a beginner!” She was mortified for me. I didn’t even have to go there.

          Um. If I’m not getting the stupid rein length correct, wouldn’t that make me a beginner? I don’t care, I just want to get it. She wouldn’t give in. 😦 I finally marked my reins with red string.

          And we like back and forth here, so “hijack” away. We think of it as chatting. Here, have a donut!

          Reply
          1. dressage rider

            Ummm, donut. (virtually drooling as it’s breakfast here)

            I imagine that your *riding* skills were too advanced for the rainbow reins. My current trainer says I’m missing some basics. Rein length qualifies. Let’s see…I’ve been working on it for 3 years now. In another 3 I just might have it!

          2. Marissa

            Ooh, ooh, maybe I can help. Would these totally horrify your dressage sensibilities? They really, really, really help (in fact, they should probably go back on my bridle). You put your hands in the loops, and then you can’t let the reins get too long. It forces you to soften with your arm instead of opening your fingers and letting the reins slide through. What do you think? http://www.vtosaddlery.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Product_Code=ADTDLR

          3. theliteraryhorse Post author

            I LOVE the reins.

            I’d want them even if I didn’t need the help of training reins, I think they look COOL. (I should have been an eventer.) Thanks for posting the link. My birthday is soon, Shaun, hint hint. AH! Wait, I take that back!! No presents for YEARS please. I have Hudson. 🙂

            And I saved the last of the donuts for you…

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