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Well, had two GREAT rides yesterday and today! The weather has finally cooperated and I got to sit on Muffin for the first time since Thursday 2 weeks ago! It has rained, rained, and rained. This is a good thing ... but a not so good thing!
I posted the following video on the Chronicle forums: Flat work
I got some very good and honest feedback about it! To MY eyes, and hopefully to the long time followers of my blog, you will see a HUGE improvement from the early Tiki days. It's been a process, as y'all know. Slow and steady and all that. One poster commented she felt like Tiki was moving more like a lower level hunter than a dressage horse ... Bwa hahaha!!! I take that as a HUGE compliment, and at least I've been doing SOMETHING right lol. It'll take too low and quiet over spastic sewing machine any day;) Another poster mentioned maybe I've hit a plateau in my training, and how maybe it's a good thing. Ya know, I think she's right! I've got to kick things up, expect the boy to rise to the occasion, and CHALLENGE him again. The training test B (the eventer test, not straight dressage) is a little more involved than BN or N, so I have my work cut out for me!
I feel like I really kicked it up. Both days of course I rode in the dressage tack. Unless something happens, I'm REALLY liking him in the mullen Happy Mouth loose ring, so that bit's staying on the dressage bridle for awhile. Both days I warmed up on a long rein. Yesterday, I w/t/c both ways. I could feel how much he fell in at the canter, but I had NO contact! After roughly 6 minutes, I came back to the walk, shortened my reins WAY up, and forgot about riding like a Hunter. I used my spur, I used my seat, and I aggressively focused on pushing his hind end into the reins. I actually felt quite a bit of enthusiasm from him, and he agreeably stepped underneath himself. I spiraled in and out a few times both ways, and could feel when he tried to "cheat" and fall in on the inside shoulder. Again, I forgot about sinking my weight into my heels and sitting soft and quiet, and pushed him hard into the outside rein. I kept my reins taut, my shoulders back, and the tempo "UP"!
On a 20m circle, I tried to really ask for variation within the trot. Sitting trot with collection; LOTS of flexion in the neck, LOTS of leg, seat sitting DOWN and following, shoulder slightly behind the hip. Rise to posting, and visualize his shoulder REACHING as far as it could. I have visual evidence he CAN have a gorgeous, open trot:
Sometimes I went right to the edge where he was nearly in a canter, and then I would bring him back down to a collected sitting trot. In the canter, I went from a regular canter to a "gradual lengthen", and then back. He felt a little strong, but when I settled back into the "regular" canter, he really sat down and lightened up. Finished with a few stellar transitions from Canter/walk/ canter/walk.
Today was more of the same, but during my long rein warmup, and just concentrated on going FORWARD, and didn't canter on the loose rein. For the most part, stayed on the 20m circle. I worked HARD on that steady contact. I lengthened my stirrups a hole, and focused on leg 80%, hand 20%. I think my biggest mistake has been fixating on hand 80%, leg 20%, oops. Within about 10 minutes, I could feel a nice steady reach through his shoulder, and his neck was "jelly like" in the bend. I FELT LIKE his back was up, and he felt REALLY GOOD, but I was just going by feel.
I practiced riding a 15m circle since I realized I really had no idea how to execute it. I did a 'baby spiral' from 20m to 15m and back. I practiced on bending him all the way through the body, and not letting him cheat and tilt that head/bend that neck. Of course it wasn't 100% perfect, but he made an excellent, honest effort. Good Muffin! I ended with some big loop serpentines all the way across the ring, and they started a little awkward, but ended pretty good. I then did about 4 turn on haunches to canter depart. It was the BEST he's ever done those! Absolutely NO shuffle/quick trot steps between walk/canter. He was crisp, prompt, and oh so good. I love his try and his heart. I will get in a few lessons with Susan coming up so we can score under 40 at May-Daze:) I think we have a good start!