I haven’t posted much about our dressage rides lately. Partly this is because I really don’t have any media, and blog posts are useless without relevant media. But mostly it’s because the day-to-day dressage stuff is pretty boring and I don’t want to kill anyone via boredom.
So, I will try to sum up the past couple months of dressage work as painlessly as possible. Be forewarned, the only dressage media I have to offer you is from when I set my phone in a jump cup, pointed it at one side of the ring, and proceeded to ride. That led to 45 minutes of footage, the vast majority of which was empty space, and the rest of which was tiny, dark, and boring. I condensed it to 5 minutes of video… if you really hate yourself and want to test your endurance, here it is. Knock yourself out. Otherwise I just popped out a few short GIFs to break the below text.
Anyway, getting to the point… I’ve had a much more rideable horse these past couple months than ever before. Instead of being the king of fake contact, I’ve actually been able to ride Henry into REAL honest to goodness contact. It’s still not automatic, but I’m able to get him there faster and faster. He still has moments of tension where he comes out of my hand and tightens his back, but I don’t really expect those to ever go away completely.
In general though, I can’t complain. Partly I think the change is due to Henry just naturally progressing in the work, but I also think that as I’ve started asking more from him, he’s stepping up and trying to deliver. Our rides aren’t simple and easy anymore, where I’m happy if he keeps his wits about him after some shoulder-in and a couple of canter transitions. Now we’re working HARD, doing things that are more difficult, doing them more often, and expecting better quality in the work we do. But he’s finally letting me do all of this without getting flustered or upset, for the most part. If he does get upset, it’s possible to get him back pretty quickly and move on, which is something that used to never happen. Not so very long ago I would completely lose all of his relaxation after we cantered.
We’ve had a couple dressage lessons where we’ve really tried to emphasize haunches-in, and I’ve carried that over to our regular work. This is incredibly hard for Henry and we still only get it successfully maybe 5-10% of the time. He’s trying though, so that’s what matters. His lengthenings have gotten better and so have our 15 meter circles. We also started playing around with how I ask for trot-to-canter departs, and those have gotten a bit steadier too. Not every time, but again, in general.
I feel like the quality of his trot has improved a lot, too. We’ve been working A TON on transitions within the gaits (“lots of different trots, constantly changing and adjusting” as Trainer says) and I’ve definitely noticed a difference in his balance. I’ve tried to step away from the idea of riding parts of the test and focus more on the whole point of dressage – gymnasticizing the horse. I want him stronger, more supple, and more rideable, and I figure the rest will fall into place as we go.
I don’t think that there’s enough improvement to really make a difference in our scores yet… there are still moments of tension and resistance that are going to cost us overall points. But I feel like he’s going WAY better lately, definitely more correct, and I like the path that we’re on. Him being more rideable makes it more fun for me too, and it means that maybe we can actually start making some noticeable progress.
I’m still majorly jonesing for a Devoucoux Loreak though… I just can’t get my position right in anything else and I’m permanently frustrated by it right now. I refuse to touch my Coco money though, so I’ll just have to deal with it for a while. Maybe once the fall season is over I can sell the Childeric and try to find a Loreak? One can dream.