Day two started with travel hassles – a truck full of bricks overturned on 202, shutting the road down, and abandoning me to creative detours. Thankfully, books on tape prevents road rage, so I arrived tight on time but not tight on patience.
Secret was first to go today. She came out of her stall in her usual let-me-at-the-work-I-can-do-it-better mode. And she did.
I warmed her up in her longer, lower neck frame, but when I sat into the saddle, she brought her back and neck up, putting her balance right where we had ended yesterday. We continued to work on settling her into the outside rein by picking exercises that stretched the outside of her body. When she became too light in the contact, she let me push her back into the connection with my leg. She just gets better and better.
As we cantered along the short side, he had me ride in shoulder-fore, then he said, “That’s her third level canter.” Third level???? She’s been a dressage horse for 16 months, but I’m not telling her that.
“Down the long side, now 12 m circle.” Piece of cake.
“Now 10m circle.” Sure, she can do that.
“Now 8 m circle.” Um, ok, that’s kinda small--well, never mind, she did it just fine.
“Now walk, and collect it.” Collected walk?? On a first level horse? Um, ok. So I cued, and sure enough, she collected. Wow.
“That’s borderline too big,” so I adjust, and again the super star responded like she has FEI training.
“That’s your show collected walk, now extended walk.” Um, ok, I guess…. “Keep her a little softer in the flexion, there, that’s what you want.” So maybe we won’t stay at first level very long this season …
Then it was Venus’ turn. She spent 25 minutes under Cara’s magnetic blanket (thank you thank you thank you), which she enjoys.
She started out feeling really lofty, but a little behind my leg—kinda like she was hovering in each trot step. Not good, as she looks pretty from the ground but I loose some adjustability. I was thrilled she was doing this, she gets this way once in a while, and I really wanted help.
When her back feels this way, I, of course, in my normal go-go-go-push-harder mode want desperately to push her forward. Pushing her forward does fix the behind-the-leg feeling, but I usually loose that loftiness. I also risk getting her too excited. I spend the rest of the ride settling her mind, and don’t really get to any real work. So I was ripe for a new plan.
Scott had me go to changing the lateral work on a 20-m canter circle, his stock exercise for a tight back. She did exactly what she does at home when I do this—she kept dropping out of the canter. So he had me alternate it with pushing her a little forward, to 12 mph, and immediately follow it with shoulder fore. The forward got the right hind moving better, and then the lateral work got it moving under her body.
And what do you know, I had forward AND loftiness AND her mind.
Holy crap my Baby Cakes is swinging like a fancy horse.
We went on to check all the lateral work in trot. In shoulder-in, when I needed more activity, a hug with my legs or a tap with the whip gave me more swing and carriage. In the half-pass, not so much. The whip gave me a tail flip and a tight stride.
So now we have two plans for lateral work. Her new half-pass plan—when I want more, go out of half pass into shoulder in or 10m circle, get the activity where she is confident, then take that activity back into half pass. As she gets more limber and confident in her half passes, I should be able to use my whip in the lateral work.
Then back to the canter.
And Baby Cakes did her first changes in public.
I’m still setting them up on very careful, don’t-get-too-excited kinds of lines. My homework is to start to challenge her confidence, and move the changes around the arena.
We went back to supple, then compress, then supple, then compress, rinse-and-repeat exercises that are Venus’ bread and butter, then he said, “We can be done with that, or we can look at her half steps.”
She likes the half steps, so why not? Homework there is to start to have her stay in the half steps for more and more steps.
Then he made my day. He said “The piaffe is going to be a highlight.”
Yes, I’m really that easy. Praise my girl and I’m putty.
Friday and Saturday Linda, Secret’s mom, and I are staying down there. I get to watch Friday afternoon lessons and Saturday morning training, a real treat for me. Plus Scott promised us a tour of their new barn. Weather will be pretty cold, so I’ll pack all of my warm stuff. I may not have access to a computer, so you might have to wait until Sunday to hear about the last two days. But I will report, I promise.