Time to push that truck out of the mud puddle and get on with the trip!
Just before the El Sueno show, I had an aha! moment. We had a great ride where Hemie and I were on the same page and getting great rhythmical, balanced movements in all 3 gaits. At the end of the ride I ran through our dressage test...and it was not pretty. Hemie and I both got tense and our quality of work was nowhere near where it had been just a few minutes prior. This happened two days in a row.
Which led me to realize that in practice sessions and lessons, I only cue for a transition once I feel we are really ready (straight, balanced, soft). Our focus has been on getting quality gaits, leading to quality transitions, since transitions tend to be where we discombobulate. In dressage tests, however, you need to transition at a specific location in the arena - ready or not.
So every ride since then I've been working on that by selecting specific locations to transition, and we're seeing improvement but more is surely needed.
Our jump rides are basically becoming flatwork rides, with jumps used as a reward for quality flatwork. At this point in our training, we don't really need to work on jump height, stride adjustability, or other jumping-only type things. We really need to focus on our dressage so I'm using our jump rides (every ride, actually) to work on that.
I worry that our progress is limited by my experience level as a dressage rider. After all, the highest level I've competed at is BN for eventing, and Training level in dressage. I know the concepts intellectually and I have good feel. But I simply don't have any experience riding dressage at a higher level and I think that is muddying the waters in Hemie's training. Its hard to get him to a place I've never been before.
Following one particularly challenging lesson, Laurie said I should consider putting Hemie in full training for 1 to 2 months to help move us forward in dressage. Thinking about that option has made me think about a number of things:
- What is my level of urgency for seeing improvement?
- How do I want to measure that improvement?
- Can I achieve that improvement through different changes to our program? (riding more days, more bit-ups, having Tynan ride him more, getting lessons from other clinicians/trainers, changing my approach and goals for practice rides, etc)
As an adult amateur with limited experience in this discipline, overall I try to not let myself feel rushed in our training or seeing improvement. I'm not made of money and I don't have high expectations for showing. Plus this is a hobby - it needs to be fun for both Hemie and myself.
My plan right now is to participate in the El Sueno Show series and do 1 more horse trial - hopefully at Twin Rivers in Paso Robles in the fall. The El Sueno shows are fun, close, affordable, and well-run. The only thing it lacks is that big-show energy and excitement that I think affects Hemie at horse trials.
|Some silk from El Sueno =]|
|shower cap = bucket cover|