Sunday marked our last show of the year and our first competition at Training. It was a very, very fun day and we all had a good, relaxed end to our season. Pop warmed up for dressage very, very well, but despite my meticulous planning I got on too early and ended up taking two walk breaks, which killed whatever good energy we had. I tried to counter that with a good canter around the dressage arena before we went in but for whatever reason, he started leaning on my hands and not going as beautifully as he had in warm-up. After reading an enlightening thread on COTH about the same kind of situation, I’ve sort of come to the conclusion that my riding must change in front of the judge. Either I’m more passive or worried about making it pretty…either way, I thought we performed a decent test, but definitely less soft than I had hoped for. He was good in all his transitions and stayed nice and straight to the right, but our lengthenings were very strung out and when I got my test back, we got the following comments throughout: “fussy in hand, stiff in neck, stiff in jaw, against hand…” etc. I was quite disappointed with the comments but looking back, I know I could have ridden him more through if I hadn’t been concentrating so hard on the movements themselves. I could have prepared him more for the lengthening, I could have half-halted more instead of just setting my hands. We ended up with a 35.9.
We have been working SO hard on our jumping and I was really excited to put it to the test. Well, I genuinely feel like I failed. I never really got him in front of my leg in the warm-up but was worried about overdoing it because he was putting so much effort into his jumps. I went in and chipped to the first, chipped to the second, then pushed for a long one to 3 (which resulted in a big grunt and a huge effort)…then continued to miss the rest of my distances (even getting a 3 in a 2 stride). God Bless him, he goes no matter what. He is SUCH a saint of a horse. C said it wasn’t as bad as I thought and that the distances were fine because he was in front of my leg, but I was really wanting to have a smoother round. Nevertheless, we ended up 5th and completed our first Training CT, which is something to be proud of. And now we have a nice long list of things to work on this winter before we start up again in January.
We started that work today. I took him on a hack and trot with Bobbie and Mazzie, and I really focused on making him walk forward on a loose rein on the hack to the field rather than letting him schlep along like I usually do. When we got there, we were all business and it was time to go to work. Softened his jaw in the walk and then in the trot, getting him to stretch into my hands while going forward and gradually letting go in his back. He was really swinging and felt beautiful. We did a few leg yields in each direction and really focused on activating the right hind, all with a soft hand and lots of leg. His canter work made me grin from ear to ear; we practiced going from a nice stretchy canter to a more uphill “competition” canter and I really felt like he was through and coming underneath himself and that I wasn’t restricting his gait with my body (as I tend to do). It felt GREAT. I felt like I could put his feet wherever I wanted them at any moment, like I could direct every single footfall. I think this type of warmup could be very helpful at shows for getting him through and swinging before we do any kind of real work. I read an article last night about how important it is to stretch and warm up all the muscle groups before going into real work, and that’s so very true…something I need to pay more attention to rather than just going out, kicking him into my hand and more or less forcing him to soften and go round right from the get go.
I’m excited for a flat lesson tomorrow! Stay posted!
Also started working with a new project today. Champ will be getting the rest of the year off, and maybe longer depending on him. I’ve had an inkling for a while that he was getting sour on his work and he’s confirmed it with refusing to be caught at any cost. So I’m leaving him alone, not even touching him besides pats until at LEAST January. I don’t want him to resent his job. He’s got some more growing up to do and has a nice solid foundation now. No need to drill his resentment out of him, which I highly doubt will work anyway. So…what to do with this extra time? Pull another one out of the field and give her a job.
One thing I really like about these horses is that even though they certainly weren’t bred or built for dressage and jumping, they have incredibly trainable brains and willing personalities that nearly make up for their conformation. This mare is built like a little hot dog, with a very long back, short legs and a short neck. Nevertheless, I like her a lot. Her attitude is willing and kind, and she might question your motives once or twice but she does as she’s told with a smile on her face. I just free lunged her today to get a feel for her and was impressed with her response to voice commands and her natural inclination to go forward.
Short video clip:
I had her pop over a pole on the ground to see if she was willing to do it and careful with her feet. At first she was “Heck no, crazy person” but eventually she trotted and cantered over it with no fuss. Obviously no clue what to do with herself but she was willing and that’s the most important thing.
My goal for her would be for her to be a safe and quiet mount for the girl who would be riding her, and maybe something she could take to local shows and have fun with. We shall see. If nothing else, I’m getting invaluable experience and the little horse has a job!
Thanks for reading!