30 Days to Poplar Place: Day 2/3

Well, day 2 did not go as planned. Actually, day 2 did not go at all. Due to a rather complicated story, I left my car keys in Ryan’s truck, and he did not make the discovery until he was already on post, about 5 minutes before Carson and I were to leave for daycare. Occasionally, he has a long hour or so in the mornings, but as it happened, Wednesday was his long day–he was unable to leave until 1700. So, Carson and I were stuck at the apartment all day, and I did not get to ride. Needless to say, when I arrived at the barn yesterday morning, I was more than a little frazzled and grumpy (funny how 1 day without the barn can do that).
For starters, in case anyone in the Ft. Benning area is reading this, let me just complain for a second how terrible driving gets as you come onto post. Piece of advice, folks, get in a lane that does not end (the visitor’s lane obviously states that it ends ahead) and stay put–wait your turn! And for those of you who let those ‘cutters’ in? Do you just want to see the world burn?? Let them learn their lesson! Make them wait their turn like everybody else!!
Okay. Sorry, I needed to get that off my chest. Back to day 3: dressage. Our ride started off nicely, with Johnny on the buckle, reaching his nose forward and downward and stretching his topline. We’ve been working on that for our warmup and cooldown, so pat on the back for us. But, when we entered the ring and I started to take up contact, I could tell this wasn’t going to be one of those amazing rides. As a side note, let me just mention that my bad mood had already been alleviated by feeding and mucking–something about mucking two wheelbarrow loads of manure puts me in the right frame of mind. I do actually enjoy cleaning stalls. I realize I am weird.
Anyway, I’m in a little dilemma here. Johnny’s walk is quite good: he steps forward and into the contact. His canter is great: really uphill, and pushes into the contact without pulling on me. But, his trot? Terrible. He either sucks back behind the leg or races forward on his forehand, inverted. I’ve tried gradually building his trot, but he just gets faster. I’ve tried pushing him out in front of my leg, then trying half-halts to slow his speed while maintaining the power. I’ve slowed my seat waay down. I’ve tried sitting trot. I’ve tried pushing him sideways or going into shoulder-in when he gets fast. All of this gets us nowhere. I cannot get him to push into contact at the trot! It’s so very frustrating. I’ve had two schools of thought from trainers: one is to slow his trot down, build the muscle, and work up from there, and one says to push him forward, forward, forward, and ride it out, until he gets the idea. I’ve mostly taken the first approach, but I haven’t seen any improvement. His canter started out like this, but through overbending and lots of leg, and staying very firmly in the middle of him, we have made vast improvements. Andrea and I are going to tackle his trot next week. She’s told me to be prepared: I am going to learn to ride my dressage tests ACCURATELY. Eek! Her theory (and mine, really): if you don’t have fancy gaits and phenomenal moves, you’d better ride an accurate test. It’s hard to fault the horse for performing his transitions promptly at the letter. So, yesterday, to gauge our ability, I took note of just how long it took for our transitions to take place after I asked for them. Honestly, we’re not bad. I just need to work on my timing. We’ve always gotten to make transitions between letters, but soon we’ll be making transitions at the letters, so it’s time to amp up our game!
Please feel free to share your OTTB success stories. I’d love to hear how your pony learned to love dressage!

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