Thursday, February 9, 2012

First Test Run Through of the Year

Today, in celebration of the continued unbelievable weather (70º and sunny in February??! No complaints) and open outdoor riding areas, Ringo and I took to the dressage arena for our first test run through of the year. Of course, today was the day that they decided to power wash the turnout sheds closest to the arena, but I was actually secretly somewhat pleased by the distractions because they would be a good test of dealing with show nerves and tightness. I chose the FEI 3* test, as that is the most difficult test we'll have to worry about in the near future.

(Not Ringo today, but Ringo lookin' fancaayy)

And... it went pretty well! Sure, there were some rough moments, but overall I was super pleased. Ringo was calm for the most part (though he did give the power washers a serious hairy eyeball the first time we trotted by them), obedient, and maintained rideability from start to finish. That last element is the thing we tend to struggle with the most, as he tends to build and build as the test goes on (especially in ones like the 3* test where all the cantering is at the end) so that by the end I feel like I can barely hold him. So, I was super pleased that I was able to keep a hold of him today even with the spookier conditions.

So here's a rundown of the test:

A - Enter Collected Canter
I - Halt Salute
C - Track Left

I Thought this went extremely well actually. Our canter-walks are sometimes a bit runny, so I was thrilled when he halted as crisply and squarely as if we'd been practicing for years. Then our opening trot felt very nice, despite some serious spooking at C because of the power washers.

HE - Shoulder-in Left

Awesome! So smooth! I felt like I could carry my hands forward and sit pretty. Not a bad feeling.

EF - Change the rein in Medium Trot
FAK - Collected Trot

Meh, not great. Not terrible, as I've not been working the medium gaits at all, but I felt like a floppy potato sack and got way behind the vertical. Whoops.

KE - Shoulder-in Right

Much stiffer. Homework needed.

EM - Change the rein in Medium Trot
MCH - Collected Trot

Better position on my part, still a little running.

HXF - Change the rein in Extended Trot

I made sure to get him really upright around the short side and tried to let his nerves about the power washers play to our advantage across the diagonal. And wow! Actually not bad! We fizzled about four strides too soon, but had some really great steps over the centerline. I have to remember that Ringo DOES have good medium and extended gaits, dangit. I just have to actually ride them!

At the Quarter Line after A - Half Pass Right to opposite quarter line

Pretty good, though I had some angle and geometry issues (too steep, then awkwardly corrected).

At the Quarter Line - Half Pass Left

This is our stiffer direction, and it showed. Tense tense tense. Homework needed.

CM - Medium Walk
MSE - Change the rein in Extended Walk

I could have shown more difference between the medium walk and extended walk, and then he jigged for a few strides before E. This is a movement we usually excel at, so I've just got to remember not to make stupid mistakes.

E - Medium Walk and turn left
X - Halt, Immobility

Halts are not usually our forté, but this went not terribly. I still need to work on it more, as I tend to pull into halts, resulting in him not being square, rather than pushing him into the halts with his hindquarters engaged.

XBMC - Rein-back 5 steps
Proceed immediately in Collected Canter Left without halting

I knew this would be rough, and it was. The rein-back was sticky and only four steps, then the canter depart was a bit wobbly and I threw my upper body forward. Whoopsidoodle. Definitely homework.

CL - Serpentine of 2 loops the width of the arena, maintaining lead

I've been really worrying over the counter canter and have been practicing it obsessively. So, it felt awesome to have it feel easy as pie!! I do need to look more carefully at the geometry, though, because I don't think I quite made the two loops the same size.

LVK - Collected Canter
KD - Half circle left 10m, returning to track at E with a flying change

AWESOME. Ringo has picked up the bad habit recently of quickening a bit going into the change, but I successfully anticipated it this time and kept him on his hocks. The change was clean, floaty, and precisely when I asked for it. Good man, Ringo!

S - Circle Right 20m in Medium Canter

I admit it, I'm not good at riding this movement. I remember it was on the test at Young Riders the year I went, and I just dreaded it and dreaded it. Clearly I don't ride straight enough on the circle (hmm... sound familiar?), so we inevitably end up falling in and running. Sigh. Ringo's medium canter is a big asset, so I've got to work on making this a place to earn points instead of losing them.

CL - Serpentine of 2 loops the width of the arena, maintaining lead

I got even more lackadaisical about the geometry this time, and definitely messed it up. I need to look at an arena diagram and figure out exactly where I'm supposed to be.

LPF - Collected Canter
FD - Half circle right 10m, returning to track at E with a flying change

Again, badass. Ringo is such a baller.

HK - Extended Canter

Good! And good transitions back, which I'm usually a bit sloppy about.

A - Up Center Line
L - Halt, Salute.

Once again, surprisingly good, especially since he always gets very strong on the last center line (I have no idea why, but he does this every single test we do).

So my big homework points are geometry, tension, medium canter on the circle, half pass (left), rein-back, and shoulder-in (right). All in all, though, not a bad first attempt!

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