All week, our Dressage had gone from 'bad' to 'okay' to 'meh and pretty heavy', so my trainer put a training ride on Connor on Friday morning, which she reported was "Excellent!", and instructed me just to handwalk him, not to ride him, when we arrived at the park on Friday night.
The next morning, warmup was a circus, and I almost ran into someone. It took us a while to relax:
|I'm not actually sure I'm breathing here...|
All photos courtesy of Connor's breeder, I am so grateful for every single one!
...but once we did, he was so on my aids. He was in that very focused frame of mind where he tunes out the world and listens to my slightest cue, and was balanced evenly over his back. Once I had that, I did not let him stop working until the test was over - going so far as to do 10m figure 8's in the grass outside the ring when I was on deck, dodging spectators.
|Sitting trot in warmup|
I used a lot of sitting trot in warm-up, because now that I know how much leg it takes to put him together (read: A LOT), I am a lot more effective in getting him on my aids in the sitting trot. But we switched to rising for the test at my trainer's request, because I can't yet sit his bigger, more impressive trots - like the one we had coming into the ring:
|WE CAN DRESSAGE!|
For the first time in a test, he was both on my aids and relaxed, not one or the other. He was so on my aids, in fact, that it bit me hard in this sequence:
|He starts to get flat in a trot circle...|
|I try to develop more impulsion using a fairly normal amount of leg...|
|...and it was way too much aid for how on the bit he was, and he cantered briefly.|
The judge appeared to almost regretfully give me a 4.0 for that movement - she wrote "Cantered - good recovery". Every other score was a 7, 7.5 or 8, with all 7's in collective marks. It felt that good, too.
|This horse...holding this canter...on a straight line...after completing a 20m canter circle already...am I dreaming? Years of work went into this picture.|
She told us we needed better balance at the canter to the right, and also wrote that in her notes. I see what she means:
|Complete failure to use my right thigh here.|
|VROOM! The sound of my horse motorcycling around a turn.|
But still - cannot complain. I will take that over our former "king of the tranter" title any day.
The only movement I felt we really did not deserve our scores on was the free walk. It was totally 'meh'.
|The clock struck midnight and he turned back into a pumpkin!|
But he recovered for the final medium walk to trot to immediate turn down centerline/halt/salute - which I always do sitting in this test. (And I recommend that you do too. Hugely easier and cleaner than rising when the turn comes up that quickly, at least for me.)
Since all of my scores were 7-8 except the one 4.0, and I ended up with a 29.5 (70.5%), this could have been a 26.5 (73.5%) test. But a 29.5 is still awesome, and it was a good lesson for me to learn. The more sensitive he gets to my aids, the more tactful I need to be with them.
|This is definitely a three part success story. She's just 11 months older than me but a million times the rider I'll ever be. I could not do it without her!|
(Really, it's a four part success story - the breeder behind the camera is the cornerstone!)