Dressage Test Take 2

Well you read about my not-so good lesson last week, this week was much better! I had asked if I could do my dressage test training during my lesson since I had been a muppet and missed my bus on Saturday. When I turned up my instructor informed me that I was going to be riding a different test which involves 2 half 20 metre circles and getting the horse to stretch in trot – As I stood looking suitably bemused I was also told my dressage pony (the ever lovely Tx) doesn’t come back from his “weekend” field until Thursday so I would be riding Td but had to pretend he was Tx – cue more confusion from moi.

As I think is probably obvious from my previous posts about him Td is one of my favourites and even though he is the only horse to have injured me (he stamped on my foot *ouch* and smacked me in the head) I am much more confident handling him in the stable. He likes to throw temper tantrums if he is left alone in his stable for any length of time and since his buddy P was getting ridden in the school – a lass has P on loan and is getting on brilliantly with him – Td was ensconced in the hay shed. Tied up but looking pretty chuffed with himself as he had a wee bit of haylage to hoover up while we got him tacked up.

I managed to get myself all sorted with minimal fuss from Td so on and ready to rock n roll with my instructor trying to explain the new walk-trot test to me – it didn’t really go in so I asked her to call it for me. First though I had to get through my lesson. Again the focus was on my position but this week something clicked, well it made sense and I managed to get my feet correct in the stirrups and I felt much stronger in my legs. Essentially my instructor explained it differently, she talked about the idea of me sitting on the horse but still supporting myself with my legs and that in order to to do this I need to have the balls of my feet in the stirrups. Now I know this has been said to me by many instructors and by my current instructor more times than I have been on the wrong diagonal but on Wednesday night I understood!

I have been reading a book by Mary Wanless called Riding with Your Mind which my instructor bases part of her teaching on and I think that might be helping. So I am keeping my fingers crossed that during my lesson today I can remember the feeling on being in the correct position, even if it is just for part of my lesson.

Other highlights of the extended warm up – normally for the dressage test we warm up for around 10 minutes in the school with the other folks doing the test, then go to the field and try to keep the horse warmed up while the other people do their test – was being made to carry my hands high with Td this has been a feature of my last few lesson, this is to help to stop him leaning on me and also makes me more aware of what I am doing with my hands.

As always I had a brief unexpected canter from Td, this time by asking for a faster trot I CLEARLY meant have a brief canter Td! He does this every time with me but oddly enough it has never made me nervous of him, perhaps it is because his canter is so smooth it is never a problem to sit to.

So we were also working on accuracy, getting him on the aids with lots of transitions, halts and bends. I was pretty chuffed to find that after a couple of exercises he was responding beautifully for me and moving on smartly without me needing to constantly chivvy him along. My instructor pointed out to me that he was carrying himself well and said that this was down to how I was riding, which was lovely to hear but to be fair she was telling me what to do 🙂

Just before the test we did some canter work. To increase my use of my legs as direction control we were practising getting him into the corners purely off my leg no reins allowed, I was allowed to use the outside rein to control his speed a couple of times. My instructor had already used the idea that I should ride at her and round her back in the trot to ensure I was right in the corners! That was bizarre as she is stood there shouting ‘ride towards me, ride towards me!’ then turn, unsurprisingly she decided against getting me to do that in the canter. 🙂

The canter felt really nice and easy, smooth. Td has smooth canter any way but afterwards my instructor told me it was looking good and that Td was listening to me constantly, looking around the corners and bending beautifully.  A couple of transitions were off but I collected him and we went again or I just backed up the ask BUT without being told to! – This is quite a big deal for me as I used to always need told to back it up or just get myself in a fanckle as I had messed up a transition!

copy of dressage test

So dressage test time! Well it felt good. A couple of my lines were off, majorly off Td loves a wiggle and I didn’t manage to correct him on one of the long diagonals but it was better than the last test. I got him moving with lots of activity, had some good lines and Td listened to me throughout and my general positioning was better. I also got some praise for the effectiveness of my aids, my instructor commenting that he was really responsive to me throughout. I have put a copy of the test result on the left, much better scoring this time although different test and a different horse so in a way tricky to compare but I did get a smiley face!

So back in the hay shed I got another chance to gain some confidence in my horse handling. I was having issues tying Td back up so I took his bridle off first then put on his head collar, in the middle of this Td tried to wander off and instead of panicking I just put my hand onto his nose and directed him back to where I needed him and he responded! I quickly put his head collar on without any fuss then saddle off, rug on and when I went to lead him to his field he happily followed me, nuzzling my hands and being an affectionate little guy. Of course it would have been because he knew that was him for the night but I like to think it was because he felt it had gone well too.

Thanks also to Soapy Photo Girl at thehorsewrotehistory for her tip on doing Pilates, I am now making a concentrated effort to do a little each night, do the exercises in my Mary Wanless book (I am a convert :)) and do the tea towel shuffle as recommended by my instructor – seems to involve cleaning my floor in a different manner. 🙂

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