As for the 'hollowness' that the judge dinged me on pretty much everywhere (and wrote a cutting little note about in the collective remarks), I honestly think he looks significantly more connected and through his back now than he did six months ago, where the judge was glowing about his throughness. The difference in the quality of his trot alone is a pretty strong indicator that we're moving in the right direction. There are a few moments where his underneck muscle comes out (which would indicate hollowness), but they are few and far between, where there were entire movements in the November test where he was resistant.
If I am critical of my riding, there were a few flaws. My elbows were sticking out through a lot of the trot work and my wrists are a little awkwardly cocked at times - maybe this is what the judge saw as being 'aggressive'? My sitting is following but at times I do look a little loose with my upper body - Ringo's trot has actually become a lot bigger and more expressive of late, and I have to up the quality of my sitting even more to keep up with him. Still, I never once smacked on his back or flopped around like a potato sack. The 5 on rider I received was unbelievably harsh, and not merited.
I've taken some super sketchy photos of the video to illustrate what I'm talking about (huge apologies to the unbelievably low quality/tentative legality of these pictures... I wouldn't normally do this, but I feel the need to vindicate myself):
(I got a 6 on this movement with the comment "needs to reach out to bridle." Umm... what.)
(OK, this is a real mistake - there is way too much angle in this shoulder in.)
(Does this look like a leg yield? No. It is clearly a half pass, and not deserving of a 5.)
(Towards the end of the movement. Haunches trail a hair, but still most definitely a half pass.)
(How is this supposed to be hollow and unengaged, again??)
(This was about the worst moment I could find in the trot: the underneck is showing and he's a little behind the vertical. However, the base of his neck is still filled out, his shoulders are still lifting, and his hind end is clearly engaged: look at that hind leg step! A horse that was truly hollow here would NOT be tracking up like that.)
(Again, how does this look like a leg yield??? It is clearly a half pass, and not a shabby one at that.)
(oh hey, still not a leg yield...)
(Oh hey, STILL not a leg yield...)
(NOT A LEG YIELD. Definitely a half pass!!)
(Umm... why was this a 5? He's unbelievably square, relaxed out to the bridle, slightly in front of the vertical, and had excellent immobility. What.)
(Ringo's bomb extended walk, which did, to the judge's credit, get a 7)
(My 'hollow' canter... yeah. ok.)
(Again... what is supposed to be wrong with this, again?)
(Right after our beautiful, but admittedly slightly early, change, which got a 5 for being hollow. Again... WHAT.)
(Ok, another admitted mistake here: his haunches came WAYY in during the extended canter, and it wasn't our best effort there. I would have happily accepted a lower score here if I thought the judging elsewhere was on mark.)
(This is about as bad as I could find in the canter. Still, the way he's sitting on his hind end, lifting his shoulder, and stepping wayyy underneath himself with the inside hind makes a pretty difficult argument for him not being engaged.)
(We got a 4 on this movement because he lost his balanced and took two quick steps over the centerline - it was, other than that mistake, the best extended trot I've ever felt on Ringo. I've had other tests where I've broken to canter over the centerline and still scored a 5 (this time when that happened in the first medium, I got a 3), so a 4 seems harsh for literally two steps of lesser quality trot that I recovered from nicely.)
(My only other 7 of the test, besides my extended walk. At least we ended positively!)
So... I'm confused. And certainly will never ride for this judge. Ever. Again. Oh well; live and learn!
(Ray looking handsome and keeping an eye on the warmup)