Daydreaming Horses

Back to the riding and this weekend I threw myself back into it fully with my normal lesson and my dressage training. We are now working on British Dressage Introductory Test B which I find a lot more flowing but despite my fellow trainees (this makes us sound so official  rather than a group of riders just learning 🙂 ) mapping it out for me I still came unstuck halfway through and had to ask for it to be called out. I have Tx for these sessions and you can read about our first attempt here and then my 2nd attempt with Td here.

There were only three of us at this session so we did a slightly different format, we all warmed up together and then the two horses and riders not doing the test stood in the corner of the school, there is a little spot that seems made for this, so that we could watch each other. During the warm up this time I chose to canter Tx and while we didn’t strike off immediately once I got him going we flew up the school and my instructor was very impressed that I had got him into a powerful canter and I have to say I was quite pleased too. It boded well for our dressage test.

We definitely had more power to the movement and I was happy with his transitions both upwards and downwards. I had wrong bend a few times but then I had missed my change of diagonal and was on the wrong diagonal for the whole test (my singlemindedness about the power/accuracy meant I didn’t even think to check) so I certainly didn’t help Tx on that front. We had some very accurate movements – for example there is a point you turn left straight across the school then track right at the other side and our turns were very neat there. I mis-judged sizes a couple of times so that a ten metre half circle was pretty much an eight metre one which meant we weren’t on the centre line for the halt at the end of the test.

My instructor also pointed out that instead of checking Tx and making him look where I need him to I currently have a tendency to stare where he is staring. Tx is a funny, dreamer of a horse and frequently seems in a world of his own including times when I am on his back but I think that it is good for me to be reminded that I need to firmly stay in charge with Tx else we would be wandering all over the shop then having a snooze. So positives:

  • Much better power in all paces
  • Good upwards and downwards transitions
  • Smooth paces – he was making lovely wee Vs with his legs throughout
  • Good turns on the straight

Now the things to work on:

  • Getting myself on the right diagonal
  • Ensure I look where we are needing to go even if Tx is away in his own wee world
  • Better shapes and more accurate sizes – planning ahead more would definitely help here

All in another enjoyable experience, unfortunately we didn’t get written feedback this time as my instructor hadn’t managed to get the sheets printed out but the verbal feedback was great and my fellow riders comments were very useful. My instructor was also saying that she might create a different test for us more eventing style with more movements and changes of directions – inclines back to the track, shallow loops etc. It could be interesting or could blow both Tx and I’s minds. Got a nose to fist bump from Td today too which was nice – I will take that as a ‘Happy New Year’ in the horse world. It really was good to be back, oh and I now have my new hat – less like a canonball?? You decide 🙂

New riding hat
Apologies for the photo, I am not a fan of the selfie as this clearly demonstrates!

Now for today’s lesson. We had been asked to swap to the 9:50am lesson instead of our 3pm slot due to the impending foul weather, this meant my last long lie of my holidays was scuppered and that there was still frost on the ground when I arrived at the stables. It was bitterly cold but bright, I was actually really cold for a large part of the lesson today – even with my gloves and four layers I huddled against Au in the stable. I think saving up for a thicker winter jacket might be a goal this year, finisterre do some lovely ones – in the meantime I reckon even more layers are called for and I should probably attempt to mend my gloves.
Riding gloves with holes

Today I was on Au, she was definitely in a grump when I got there. You know it is going to be difficult when you walk into a stable and the horse refuses to turn around to greet you. We had a bit of face-making and ground-stamping so I left her girth until I was ready to mount and just sorted out my stirrups and her bridle while chatting away to her.

There were quite a few people in my lesson today, some familiar faces who I don’t get to ride with often and a couple of the helpers. One of whom was on Mr K who did the most fantastic canter I have seen him do in a long time, proper knees up, dressage style canter – he looked like he was enjoying himself.

For the first half of the lesson I felt like I had forgotten everything I have ever been taught. I tried working on circles and walk/halt transitions but Au stubbornly refused to do correct bend for me. I felt everything was going a bit wrong, not badly wrong just all a bit muddled. My legs weren’t in the correct position during the warm-up (well they were still attached to me so that’s a relief) seeming to sit too far back oddly and I was ramming my heels down rather than finding a comfortable balance. After getting more and more half-hearted at my attempts to do nice flowing movements, getting her bending and getting a good trot, it was just feeling laboured and really heavy I was a bit relieved to hear we were going to be doing an exercise on trot speeds. Privately I thought “well I have the slow trot down a treat”.

Down one side of the school we were to trot round to the H marker, count the rises we did before the E marker then do the same number of rises plus two more before the K marker. We were warned that we would need to check their speed quite a lot to get those two extra rises in. Our turn came after another three horses had been. Off we went, immediately I was told to get her out into the corner more my instructor told me to tap her on the shoulder with the crop. So I did and we promptly cantered off down the school at great speed. I had her checked halfway down the school, my instructor laughed and said that this showed I hadn’t actually been asking Au to do anything so far so she assumed I had wanted canter.

Au is such a sweetheart that I have no problem with her when she tears around the school like that but the more irritating thing is that if it happens once she firmly decides that everything should be conducted at canter. Honestly, we had another go on the left rein and I had to strongly check to hold trot and we didn’t quite manage two extra rises (got 1 and a half). On the right rein we did the same exercises but this time aiming for six rises then eight, we almost got it but again each time I pretty much started in canter.

So you would think we aced the canter exercises? Well nearly. Apparently in dressage judges look for ten canter strides for a standard sized school, obviously this is easier for the horses with bigger strides and given half the class were on highland ponies (myself included) we weren’t too confident but we were all up for the challenge. In order to try and drain some of Au’s amazing energy we went first, well the transition was remarkable but that’s probably because I simply let her have some rein we missed the corner entirely and my cheeky instructor had deliberately called some of my lesson-mates up to her meaning that if we had cut the corner and weren’t on the outside track we would slow to trot – so guess what happened! 🙂 Proves her point that I need to ensure that I decide where we turn with Au not her, so we went again. We got eleven strides in and a much neater corner plus a lovely downwards transition. Then on the right rein we got ten strides!! Admittedly we did this after seeing Mr K ace his canter, Am was ridden beautifully as well today and while Tx wouldn’t keep cantering I thought his rider did very well to push him on. Au did not need any encouragement with the speed factor today.

We were very pleased with ourselves in the end and Au graciously let me give her neck a good, old rub and a brush down afterwards. She is a lovely old soul and I think this lesson definitely taught me that sometimes I need to warm up as much as the horse, a large part of me not getting the correct bend was that I simply was not turning my body nor asking her to move on correctly. Once we had cantered the first time in error she was much freer and seemed happier to move forward.

I had forgotten how much Au teaches me. Simple things such as looking ahead instead of at her and remembering that she is so responsive to the rider that if you aren’t warmed up and ready there is little chance she will be. I had to rush away from the stables to catch the bus but did manage to say hello to Tx, Jm and HB as I thought I should give all the highlands a bit of attention. Jm was on fire today too so it was definitely a team highland lesson. Happy new horse riding year everyone.

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