Thursday, March 31, 2016

Watch out for the children!

This week is Spring Break in schools and the barn is hosting a week of camp for a few older kids. BM asked me to do a dressage demo for them to keep their little brains occupied between rides. I chose BN A to do as a demo for them to ride later in the afternoon (no first salute, easy 20m circles at both trot and canter, and you're done), and then BM told me to pick a test I'm going to show so they could see some upper of the lower levels dressage.

I picked 2-3 because it has just enough to keep a beginner amused while watching, but is still easy enough that I could force ride Bobby through it should he choose not to participate this morning.

"i would never be naughty!"

He felt pretty okay warming up, so we moved right along to the BN test. And then he did not feel pretty okay. He was hurrying through everything and we were kind of a disorganized mess. I couldn't even get him to pick up the canter the first try, and we almost ran into the children. Oomph. Hey, kids. This is what a fancy dressage horse looks like!

Only not.

They didn't care obviously, and BM had me run through it again so they could really work on memorizing the movements. It was slightly better the second time around, but once we were done, I took a little time to try to get Bobby more put together. He could get through the motions of a BN test sure, but that wasn't even good enough for a bad Second test.

I was still trying to hurry things along to not lose the attention of kids that didn't really understand what I was doing, so when we finally turned down center line to begin the test, Bobby was still braced against the bit and pretty tense.

I will, however, share the video anyway! That's right. When you've got a group of people standing around, you're damn right I'm going to force my camera onto one of them.

For those that don't want to watch the video (understandably), don't worry. I'll break it down for you again:

A enter collected trot, X halt salute, C turn left: Braced, halt is fine, but then we kind of meandered off a bit before actually trotting again.

Medium trot across diagonal: He was slow to build which was intentional. Stay calm, Bobby. Do not panic.

Shoulder in K to E: Stiff and anxious.

10m circle at E: No dramatics! We're calling that a win, I don't care what it looks like.

Haunches in (Travers? Renvers? Whatevers?) E to H: Again, tracking right and staying calm. Small wins.

Medium trot across diagonal: Slow build again, and right as he starts to hit his stride he starts getting a little downhill.

Shoulder in F to B, 10m circle B, haunches in B to M: Quieter this direction, though my reins are too long.

Halt at C, rein back 3-4 steps: He fell off the ditch created around the ring from the harrow being broken, so he lost his balance right when we went to halt. Then I lost the connection to the bit and while he's not dragging and shuffling his feet in the rein back, his head and neck are like, "K BAI."

Turn at H (?), walk across, collect stride, turn on haunches, repeat other direction: Still no real connection to the bit, and his first turn on the haunches is more like a small circle. The second felt better though you can't see it behind the standards.

Free walk: No stretch, too tense, which is a shame because this dude is the King of Stretch when he's not internally freaking out bro.

Medium walk: I get handsy and grabby and panic and Bobby throws his head up.

Collected canter: Reins too long, not connected to the bit at the walk, let alone the canter. This is where things really start going downhill.

Medium canter down long side: Haunches want to drift in a bit.

Counter canter serpentine: Braced against the bit and not nearly as forward and smooth as he's capable of.

Simple change across that one diagonal: Bobby Spaz because OMGSOHARDHATERIGHTHATECANTER.

Medium canter down long side: Yep, still braced against the bit and working that under-neck.

Counter canter serpentine: See above.

Simple change on that other diagonal: No spaz, so winning?

Canter, then trot, then up center line, then halt, yada yada: And again, see all the aboves.

so glad it was warm enough to hose off after our ride roll in the mud while naked

You know where you go through a ride and have someone video, and when you look at it, you're like, "That didn't feel as bad as it looks!"

This was not one of those times. I knew the whole test through that this was not what we're capable of. When the kids went into the tack room to eat lunch, I got to work getting my real upper of the lower levels horse back.

We started off with a long jag of ground covering stretchy trot to lose the anxiety. Then I brought him back to the walk and slowly--as slowly as he needed--got him up into the bridle off my seat only. When he was ready, we went back to a collected trot and did the whole test through again. The walk and trot work were ten thousand times looser and easier.

The canter though was still not good. It was actually kind of explosive, and I had another couple moments where I just kicked him through it and told him to get over it and just go before it finally came together.

Right now my warm up is going to need more tweaking than the actual tests. If I can figure out the right formula to engaged both his body and brain without making him tweak out in his tiny, pressure-adverse brain, I can ask him to do any move on the planet and he's right there. It's just finding the right magic Bobby potion.


  1. Shoulders in and haunches in looked great to me. Good luck figuring out the magic potion for Bobby. Maybe some beer would chill him out?

  2. Count on horses to pick when you have an audience to not want to play! When I am alone is when I feel like I have the best rides.

  3. I'm kinda jealous if bobby's canter walk transition lol

  4. I find that when I'm forced to hurry up my warm up or 'perform' for an audience, my ride always sucks! I'm impressed that you were able to get through that 2nd level test anyway!

  5. Warmup is like 3/4 of the battle, and the other part is not psyching yourself out going down centerline. Y'all have definitely got the moves, though!

  6. Yeah I think warm up is the hardest part. :-/ Sometimes we need 10 minutes, sometimes an hour, and sometimes I might as well get off. Wheeee!

  7. You forgot to mention that his canter-walk transitions are AWESOME. You nailed those. Nicely done.

  8. Lots of nice moments in there! I also enjoyed the coordination of sweater/gloves/saddle pad. Not matchy-matchy but adult sophisticated matching...which is even better. :D

  9. Those shoulder ins are beautiful! Well done

  10. To my uneducated dressage eye it looks like you had quite a few good moments.

  11. Still waiting for a point in my lifetime where I can be like "yeah, 2-3 should be easy enough, I'll just do that one." Stay tuned in like a decade or so.


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