While Reva has been busy being a show horse and learning to be a trail horse, Dreamy has been gearing up for dressage shows this year. We've only shown once so far, but I have taken two lessons with my really fabulous instructor Judy. We have been working on her canter, of course. The biggest thing this year is really slowing everything down. She cannot collect her frame if I am allowing her to blast along in her powerhouse trot. And when we are really thinking S L O W, I can get a pretty decent canter from her. But I really need to think about riding every stride. It was one thing to tool around at Training level, but since I am really aiming to do First Level this year, I have to refine what I am asking her to do.
So far, I have discovered that cantering Dreamy is really about half halts. I am asking for the canter departs from a very small trot, so that her hind end is able to really get underneath and strike off in a balanced transition. And then it seems that after a few strides of canter, she starts to get strung out. So, by riding a (fairly big) half halt and asking her to canter AGAIN, I am able to get a few more strides of decent canter. Overall, it seems like I can string these moments of canter together to complete a circle, etc.
In my last lesson we worked on trying a few steps of leg yield at the canter, which was amazingly helpful. In asking her to leg yield over, she was able to really step underneath herself in the canter, therefore improving the quality of the canter. She was sort of confused at first, but tried very hard! We got some very nice canter in the right rein...which used to be her worst direction! Now she is struggling with her left lead this year! LOL! Funny how horses are....
So in the left lead, I have to really control her shoulders and not allow her to become overbent and "pop" the outside (right) shoulder. She gets so crooked and then unbalanced. It is hard for me to control her shoulders and think about counter flexing her neck but NOT counterbending her body. Sometimes I have such a hard time getting my brain to coordinate my aids...LOL! I wish my timing were better, but what can you do? ;-D But I have worked hard between lessons and Judy felt we had improved in the three weeks time. (It is hard to take lessons when I am showing during the school year...once I am done teaching on June 21, it will be MUCH easier to lesson during the week and then show on the weekends.)
We have to work on our leg yielding at the trot if I am going to try First 2. She is super easy yielding to the left, but pretty sticky to the right. I need to start carrying a whip to encourage her hindquarters to move! I hate riding with a whip which is why I use spurs. But I think I will be more effective with a gentle brush with the whip than trying to coordinate my leg aids.
Though I have to say, all this slowing things down and asking her to move in a slightly more collected frame has made our trot lengthenings really awesome! LOL! Dreamy has always had a great range of motion in the trot, but now I have a hard time convincing her that every change of rein at the trot does NOT automatically mean we get to lengthen! LOL!
We will get there. From only having two lessons so far, I am very pleased with our progress. First Level is it with Dreamy...at 20 years old there is no reason to ask her for more. She is doing everything I am asking her to do and she is happy and comfortable. Heck, for a retired broodmare, what else does she need to prove? LOL! As long as we are having fun (we are!) and doing fun stuff like jumping and easy stuff like trail riding in between the serious dressage work (we are!), then I am happy!