Ken Sudsbury teaches ‘fusion dressage’ (a mix of traditional classical riding and modern training sometimes called ‘neo classical’). Last time I caught him at the end of his English tour of teaching but learnt so much I made sure I was on the list for his first visit of the season.

The lesson didn’t disappoint!

We started off in walk. Ken like Abbey’s walk, it had bounce and purpose but, he said, it could have a little more ground cover.  He observed that I was restricting her movement and asked me to relax the contact a little – just by giving with my 4th finger, Abbey gave…

He also observed that she was a little tight through her shoulders and introduced us to two exercises that would help improve her suppleness.

On a 20m circle in walk Ken had me do ‘nose to the wall’. Ken explained that this would stretch Abbey’s outside shoulder. When we returned to a normal circle Abbey’s walk stride has lengthened a little.  Then Ken asked me to put Abbey’s ‘tail to the wall’, this he said, lifts her shoulders.

We moved up to trot and put Abbey on another 20m circle. I’ve always been battling with Abbey to stop her from falling in and out (depending on the rein). Ken explained that circles in dressage aren’t actually round but are made up of lots of very small straight lines. You go straight for a moment and then bring the shoulders round, straight and shoulder, straight and shoulders etc etc. By crikey it works! Abbey and I did some of the best, most even circles in our 3 year partnership… I had not found this out before, I don’t know!

Next we did lots and lots of transitions just with my seat and then practiced our half halts (again with my seat and not my hands!)

Rein-back – a movement which, like many people, I over-ride. Ken had me sit up tall and put both legs back and wait for Abbey to shift her weight to her hind quarters. When she did, I just had to let the rein-back happen. If Abbey swung her quarters into the school, Ken told me to bring her head into the direction she was going crooked. It’s as simple as that! It was lovely with no change in Abbey’s outline, no fighting and no resistance.