When I sat down to start writing this more in-depth competition update I took some time to think what people would like to get from reading it. So, for those just wanting to get a jist of the day, here are the tests I did and my results…
P19Q Silver = 68.96% 1st in my section and 2nd overall
P17Q Silver = 69.5% 1st in my section and 3rd overall
Meaning we are now 2 points away from achieving our winter regional qualification
Then for those of you wanting more detail about what goes through my head when I ride, here are my thoughts from each test…
Whilst warming up for my first test he felt very tense and like he was not respecting my leg enough. He felt very on the forehand, so I wanted to do something about it. With my previous cob type horses doing loads of transitions was the main key to this. However, with Terry he is very short coupled which means he finds it hard to be supple and give at the rib cage. So, the only way to get him truly over his back is to achieve a good inside leg to outside rein connection. Then the energy that I produce with the hind legs can be channelled and improve the balance. Instead of letting the energy fall out through the outside shoulder. As I am learning the hard way, this is why respect of my inside leg is essential for getting a horse to take more weight onto the hind legs and lift the front end. With more rib cage bend, the inside hind leg can step relatively further forward the horses body and this is the basis of all lateral work (and has made a lot more sense to me since teaching my other horse shoulder in!). Try watching any advanced horse and see how much their inside hind leg steps under the middle of the horse. This is a progressive goal in dressage, meaning that it begins on 20m and 15m circles and gets more exaggerated on smaller circles and lateral work.
So, the goal for my warm up was more inside leg respect on 15m circles (one of the test movements) which I felt I had achieved. The thing that I wasn’t so pleased with is that I felt that I deviated too far from my warm up plan. That being said, I still did all of the movements I set out to do, just in a different order which threw me a little, so it is partly down to personal taste in the end. Too much improvising and thinking on my feet doesn’t focus me and set me up well mentally for a test (but being more adaptable is a skill I need to cultivate). My idea for next time, is to number the sections of my warm up and if I feel myself deviate too much from my plan, come back to walk an have a think about how I am changing my plan and why. All warm up exercises must have a goal in mind. So as long as all of my numbered sections have an individual goal in mind (e.g. different sized circles to achieve more suppleness), I can have more flexibility by doing them in a different order according to how the horse feels, instead of giving up on my plan completely.
In the test itself I felt he was a bit tense and on the forehand. However, I rode this test about a month ago and feel his way of going has vastly improved since then, so it is all about putting it into perspective. I know we need more suppleness and energy to do the Novice tests and I do have to catch myself when I feel the impatience and perfectionist tendencies creeping in.
After the first test as, usual I had a chat with mum. Mum advised me to keep the warm up very short, so we did 20 minutes including walking. I focused on getting him supple in canter (as he seems to go better after a canter). Finishing with some trot walk trot transitions and some leg yield in the trot to get him pushing from behind and supple. When we were in the test I was thrilled. I had to be quite firm with him to start with as he wanted to back off but once I did, he was very relaxed and swinging more over his back than in the first. I felt that he was letting me in. I had him forward but not rushing, that magic tempo where he feels like he is floating. Whilst there were moments where he wasn’t round enough, especially in the transitions my priority was that he was working from behind to the contact. Because of that, the roundness then solved itself by me riding forwards. However, to improve even further I need to get the roundness quicker so that he isn’t calling the shots quite so much. On the whole, it was one of our best tests and I was really proud of how he trusted me and proud of myself for choosing to be more confident in my knowledge rather than crumbling in self-doubt (another blog to come on this). Everything else was a bonus.