Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lesson with Kim: First Test Run Through of the Year!

I brought Ringo to my Kim lesson this week, as he's had a few weeks out of the limelight. Since my last lesson, I've been working on suppleness, suppleness, suppleness... but have sort of let the strength building part of the equation go by the wayside. I warned Kim of this at the beginning, so we definitely went out right from the start with the goal of keeping our newfound suppleness and adding in collection and strength.

Throughout our warmup, Kim asked us to be a lot more dynamic within each gait--asking for BIG trot, itty bitty trot, and everything in between, all while keeping the hind legs coming forward (and touching him with the whip to remind him of that if necessary). Ringo is getting better about letting me use the whip, but it definitely still progressively winds him up at the moment, so we had to keep taking breaks from pushing him hard in order to do some suppling work and get him back into a relaxed place.

Ringo responded well, and Kim was really complimentary of the increase in his cadence and carrying power from the beginning of the winter. It's great to hear that our work is paying off!

(Trying to get a little more cadence to that trot - always a challenge for us!)

She then suggested that we do a run through of the first test I'm going to be riding this year: Fourth Level Test 1. I blanched a little bit; I definitely wasn't feeling super confident in our ability to survive a whole test after five plus months off! Kim insisted that it would be a good idea to do a run through now so that we could at least get a picture of what we have to work on between now and the first show of the year. So I took a deep breath, tried to put on my big girl panties (it was a struggle), and away we went.

Here's sort of how it went down:

Fourth Level Test 1

A - Enter collected Canter
X - Halt, Salute
Proceed collected trot
Ringo tends to get pretty strong on center lines and across diagonals, and this was no different. He sort of bolted down the centerline, so it was quite a struggle to get him balanced and into a crisp halt! We sort of ran into the halt and took too many steps of trot. Sigh. Back to the canter-walk-canter, our nemesis!

C - Track left
HXF - Medium trot, over X, 6-7 steps of collected trot
F-K - Collected trot
Not going to lie, I was green around the gills about this movement, and told Kim as much. This goes back to the sorts of exercises we were doing in warmup and being able to be really adjustable within the gait at a moment's notice. Obviously going forward, this is one of the THE most important skills of a good dressage horse; at Grand Prix, for example, you have to be able to go from extended trot to passage in a single stride. So if we want to get to the FEI levels, this is something we have to get better at! Honestly, it actually wasn't as bad as I thought it would be... but there's plenty of work to do.

K-X - Half pass right
I had the usual problem of Ringo barging out of the corner across the diagonal, making it hard to get him fluidly into the half pass without him falling against my inside leg. Kim also noted that I had a bad habit of bracing with my inside leg and inadvertently taking it off Ringo's side, thus encouraging him even more to rush sideways. This was a movement we practiced several times afterward, and when I was able to keep my inside leg on it went much more smoothly.

X - Circle right 10m
This went well. Phew!

X-G - Shoulder in right
C - Track right
There were two main things to keep in mind for this movement: being steady in the line of the shoulder-in, and remembering to straighten at G (BEFORE the end of the centerline). The first time through, I was a little wobbly on both counts! But, like the half pass, we worked on it afterward and improved significantly.

MXK - Extended trot
K-F - Collected trot
Given how shaky our medium and extended gaits can be, this actually went great! I just need to remember to keep the balance and not chase him out of the corner.

(Our extended trot can be... troublesome. But we try!)

F-X - Half pass left
I had the same issues as to the right, but a little bit more dramatically. Ringo is stiffer to the left and struggle much more with stretching down into my left leg in this situation, which isn't a winning combo. A lot of homework here!

X - Circle left 10m
In this run through, Ringo ended up getting quite tense in the half pass, which made the circle to the left more damage control, trying to get some suppleness back instead of really getting to show off. But thank goodness that circle is there, or else I would have really been hosed!

X-G - Shoulder in left
C - Turn left
This is our steadier direction in shoulder in and I had a little better feeling for the movement, so it went a little smoother. But this is definitely a movement where I have to be super sharp!

S - Collected walk
S-R - Half Circle 20m in collected walk
Ringo's walk is a strong point, and I just need to be bolder in showing it off. But he was perfect :)

R-S - Half circle 20m in extended walk
Same critique as the collected walk. Be bold, Kate! Show off!

S-E - Collected walk
E - Half-pirouette left, proceed collected walk
Ugh. This is not Ringo's strongpoint. I need to not try to make the hind leg circle too small to the point where he sticks behind. Lots of homework here!

S - Half-pirouette right, proceed collected walk
This is his better direction, but we still need work.

E - Collected canter left lead
Good boy, Ray!

A - Down centerline
D-E - Half pass left
We had the classic charging down the centerline episode, which made the half pass difficult to control. Same homework routine as the trot required.

E-C - Counter canter
C - Flying change of lead
This was actually good! I think the suppling work I've been doing has been paying off. And the change was great! Good boy, Ray!

M-F - Medium canter
F-A - Collected Canter
This went quite well! Good man!

A - Down centerline
D-B - Half pass right
Same problem as to the left, with the same homework.

B-C - Counter Canter
C - Flying change of lead
The counter canter in this direction was a little harder to manage, and so the flying change was a little more wild. When I get the suppleness better, the changes will be better too.

C - Circle left 20m, 5-6 strides of very collected canter between quarterlines
This is a skill we've been working on all winter, and in Kim's words, "it's coming." Coming into this off season of work, Ringo's canter pretty much had two gears: 'working,' and 'GALLOP.' There was no collection. At all. So we've basically had to start from scratch (thus why canter-walk-canter has become our friend over the past few months!). Now he will shorten pretty well, but tends to get tight at the base of his neck. I need to keep oscillating between suppling and strengthening, narrowing the gap between those two extremes as I go, until we can be BOTH supple and strong. It's coming.
(I forgot to add this in in my first version of this post - thanks for the reminder, Megan! Now I have to remember it in the test!)

H-K - Extended canter
K-A - Collected canter
Good again. This is one of Ray's champ moves, and it felt great to have it go well :)

(This is one of Ringo's best movements - and one of the most fun to ride!)

A - Down centerline
X - Halt, Salute
We improved this time, but it still needs a little work.

Overall, it wasn't that bad! Kim definitely thought we were headed in the right direction, even if we do have some major homework going forward. I'm getting really excited about the start of the season! ...even if it is 2 months away, haha.


T Myers said...

Such a good idea to see where you are at. That test feels like it would ride quite nicely. Sounds like mostly just polishing and perfecting from here for you guys.

Megan said...

Don't forget the school canter circle just before the last canter extension like I did in October :) :) love this test!

Katherine Erickson said...

Gahh of course Megan! Thanks for the reminder! I remembered it on Tuesday, but it's definitely the movement I'm most likely to forget.

Megan said...

Everything else in this test flows so nicely and then there's that random circle at the end! And it's a double coefficient, forgetting it was really embarrassing...

AmberRose- Girl With a Dream said...

This was so interesting to ride, It sounds like you did have a good time and I can't wait too hear how things are going :)

jenj said...

I loved "riding along" in this test with you. I hope I can one day get to the level you're at with Ray - sounds like WAY more fun than 20 meter working trot circles!

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