Yay! We survived!

Yesterday we had our big dressage lesson at my trainer’s barn. What a relief to see my pony happily relaxed and stretching down into contact! Of course, that was during warm-up. I had asked Emily to watch our dressage test (USEF 2010 BN B) and offer some improvement comments. We started off well–our trot work was cadenced, balanced, and forward. Fast forward then to the ‘approaching x left lead canter transition.’ Here’s what went down: approaching F, I asked for a half-halt in the corner and asked for an increased bend. Response: head lifted, mouth clamped down on bit. Approaching x now at the inverted trot, I asked for left lead canter. Response: grabbed bit, head came up higher, launched into right lead canter. Instinctively, I asked for a flying change. Response: changed in front, hind stayed in right lead, and highly bothered by miscommunication between front and back ends. Subsequently, we re-attempted the entire movement, starting again at A. Roughly same results. Thankfully, our third attempt was successful. We made an awkward half circle, and as we approached F again, I again asked him to overbend and rebalance. Response: firmly ignored rider and proceeded to extend the canter down the long side. By the time we reached B, I had to yank him down to the trot or risk plowing through the end by the time we reached M. Back to inverted trot. I managed to get him rebalanced in the corners, and as we changed rein across the diagonal (H-X-F), through “subtle” half-halts, I managed to keep him trotting fairly rhythmically. Here we went again, to the right. Rather than wait until we approached X, however, I asked for the right lead canter coming right off of K. Result? We hit the correct lead. We then proceeded to gallop down the long side (K-E-H), where I again had to yank him back down to trot. Then, my fire-breathing dragon and I proceeded to hyper-trot through the end. Our halt was fairly good (thanks, Nancy Sobba)…

Here’s what Emily said, and I quote: “Yay! You survived!” Her suggestions? Keep him as long and low as possible throughout the test–rather than try and keep him in a more elevated frame, she offered that a more relaxed horse would yield better results, and I would lose fewer points this way. She also told me to transition to trot immediately after passing B and E. Her words, “The less cantering you do, the better.” She did say our trot work was fairly good and should yield 6’s and 7’s.

My only glimmer of hope for this weekend is that I won’t be the only one riding a contact-resistant OTTB, and I will definitely not be the only rider whose horse is only surviving dressage to make it to the fun phases! Go Eventing!!

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