I currently have a hate/hate relationship with this thing. See, Paddy and I are working on the very lowest two parts of the triangle - Rhythm and Relaxation. If you watched our video from our last lesson, you'll notice that we do a lot of speeding up and slowing down. I assure you that's not intentional on my part - if left to his own devices, Paddy would do a nice 12-mph park trot for an hour straight. So our rides have been a constant discussion:
Paddy: TROT FASTER!
Me: Easyyyy, buddy.
Me: Hey, I'm up here, I want to go slow.
Paddy: LOOKIT IMMA TROTTING RACEHORSE!!!
Me: Sit down, shuddap, and walk. Now, trot slowwwww...
In addition to our constant chats about rhythm, we also have huge issues with relaxation. Paddy is a forward-thinking guy. He's not spooky, but he's Going Places, and he's going to get there first. It's kind of a miracle I can now ride him at a walk on a loose rein, because when I first got him that would have quickly escalated into a zoomy trot within seconds of being given any slack in the reins. So we're getting better at relaxing at the walk, but relaxing at the trot is still completely beyond us. (And we're not even going to talk about the canter right now.)
Now, the next step, according to this pyramid, is connection and impulsion. But frankly, I'm not worried about that right now. What I AM concerned with is straightness. Because wow, can he throw his weight on his left shoulder (correspondingly taking his weight off his right hind) and flop around like nobody's business. He falls in to the left like he's cutting a cow, and drifts out when going right like there's a magnet sucking him to the rail. Laterals to the left are a joke, since he just throws his left shoulder out and leaves his hind end trailing somewhere in the next county.
I TRY to keep hold of that left shoulder, I really do. But I swear, it's got a mind of its own. Couple that with the fact that he's very heavy on the left rein, and there's not much to hope for. We've tried loads of different exercises - laterals, turns on the forehand/haunches, 10 m circles, serpentines... anything to get him to carry weight evenly on all four legs and be, you know, straight? All this while I'm trying to keep the rhythm and not tense my body up to match his. Nobody said dressage was easy, right?
In my lesson this weekend, we finally found the magic exercise: squares. More about those later, but wow, they got him straight, and for the first time ever we weren't trotting around at mach one-haffie. It was pretty damn incredible, actually. So I just would like to ask the people who came up with this silly training pyramid to rewrite it a bit. Can we put straightness first, at the bottom? Because that's how it seems to work for us. Get straightness and the horse has rhythm and begins to relax.