I can hear the dribbles of snow melting through my closed window. The sun is shining and it’s astounding how much snow has disappeared in the driveway and the yard over the last few days.
I was able to get in two good rides this week. I suspect the arena might be a bit treacherous tomorrow as the highs will be right around 30, re-freezing the watery surface, but judging from my ride yesterday, we should have a great surface in a couple weeks (or less!).
On Wednesday when I rode, I even tried a canter for the first time since probably November. It was balanced, rhythmic, and completely amazing. Oh the wonderful mood a beautiful canter can put me into…
I also focused on doing some transitions and sitting trot work on Wednesday. We’re still working on lightening the down transition aids. We put in a long session, almost an hour, and Sebastian worked very hard for me.
Yesterday, I wanted to play around a bit with everything to see where we were starting off this spring. We did some turn on forehand (good), leg yield (pretty good), shoulder-in (interesting), and haunches-in (also interesting). I did most of my work at a walk, although we did some trotting at the end.
The movement I worked on the most is a section from First Level, Test 3. (see picture) After doing a lengthened trot across the diagonal from H to F, the rider goes through two corners tracking right. Immediately after the second corner, at K, there is a leg yield right to X.
This is a trickier series to execute as the bending changes quite quickly at K and you must get your horse moving from a right bend, to a more left bend, to right laterally all in a moment. I attempted to demonstrate this in the photo.
We had varying degrees of success at this movement last year at the shows from a pretty good execution (“7” being our highest score) to an “Oh, crap! He thinks I’m asking him to canter!” moment, but we still salvaged a “6” out of that one.
To start him up again, I just did some basic leg yields by turning early down centerline or quarterline and asking him leg yield back to the rail. Once I had him responding to my leg, I tracked right and practiced just the change of bend by turning down centerline and asking for a left ten-meter circle shortly thereafter. This mimics the change of bend I’d be asking him for without the added demand of the leg yield. Once I felt he was switching the bend fluidly, I added the leg yield to make it: right turn down centerline, left ten meter, leg yield right, then straight. Eventually, we’ll take out the left ten-meter circle and just change the bend and leg-yield.
Like I said, it’s tricky, but this being First Level, Test 3, it’s moving the horse and rider towards Second Level where the movements and change in bend come up much more quickly.
I’m also hoping that being able to sit the trot through the series of movements this year will help as I had a hard time asking for him to move over in the right moment last year when posting.
Overall, I’m not a big believer in practicing tests over and over. If your horse is with you, he’s with you, and will fluidly move where you ask him. I DO think, however, that as long as I don’t get fixated on any specific movements, practicing pieces of the test will help Sebastian think “oh yeah, this is the part where we (fill in the movement here),” and hopefully that’ll help our fluidity overall.
After all, our first horse show is just over two months away. Eek!