Yesterday was an exciting day because Ringo and I did a full run through of the Prix St George test for the very first time!
...Actually, not quite. I've tried going through the PSG a few times now, but always in a super nebulous way because there have been so many pieces that simply haven't been there. It's been along the lines of, "well ok, the pirouette should theoretically go here, but we'll just make a small circle back to the corner instead in the meantime," or "I guess the tempi changes would go here, but let's just try to get across the diagonal with a single change without dying and call it a day this time around."
(We did do full sets of 4s and 3s out in this big lovely field the other day, which was definitely a confidence boost)
But yesterday was different. I warmed up very lightly, just enough to get Ringo feeling light and spry without tiring him out (a real concern for this test, as his fitness still isn't great and the hardest movements come thick and fast). After a quick walk break, I did a few of my favorite walk to half-step (ish) transitions to really get him thinking about stepping under with a long neck, added a touch of whip a few times behind the girth to get him a little more active behind, then came back to walk, took a deep breath, attempted to hitch up my big girl pants, and picked up the canter and set off. I was riding at home in my totally not standard size arena, so did my best to approximate. Here's how it went:
A Enter in Collected Canter
X Halt-Immobility-salut. Proceed collected trot.
XC Collected trot.
It doesn't seem like it should be that hard, but the collected canter entrance is something Ringo and I have really struggled with. When I first got him, he had a somewhat mystifying habit of pretty much grabbing the bit and bolting down the centerline, no matter what gait were going (or even if we were just turning up the centerline to then do something else like leg yield back to the rail). I eventually got this bad habit under control at the trot, but the canter still remained problematic. He would just start racing the second we turned toward C, making it inevitable that we'd have a crappy halt and a bad first impression to the test. Thankfully the pirouette canter has been super helpful in this, and as he's gotten stronger it has improved a lot. He was still a little squirrelly, but way, way better.
C Track to the right.
MXK Medium trot.
KAF Collected trot.
My medium trots re not great right now. They're not awful... but they're not going to score well. I wanted to work on the medium and extended gaits with Kim in my last lesson but we didn't get around to it, so I'm still hoping to get some tips before GMHA. I know it's a rider problem, because he's stronger than ever and I HAVE produced a good medium on him before. I'm just messing up somehow and I don't know how to fix it.
FB Shoulder-in left.
Good! This is our easier shoulder in direction, so I really tried to show off by having be a little slower and more cadenced like I've been working on in my lessons. It was a little wobbly because I was asking for more, but I think I can polish it to something very respectable in the next few weeks.
B Volte left (8m)
This was a time when I wish I had a real arena, because I have no idea how accurate the size of my circle was. I just tried to make the smallest circle I could. That said, it was actually a pretty good circle all things considered, as small circles are often one of those stupid movements that should be easy but that I mess up by making Ringo tight in the back or getting lazy with my geometry.
BG Half-pass to the left.
G On center line.
C Track to the left.
Kim has really been working on the half-pass with me, especially to the left (my weaker side), and wow! It really showed! For the first time, this movement actually felt sort of... easy? I can't say that too loudly or I'll jinx myself. But it was good to know that, when Ringo and I are on, we can do this with no problem.
HXF Extended trot.
FAK Collected trot.
Same commentary as the medium. I need some rider help.
KE Shoulder-in right.
Our tougher direction for the shoulder in, so I need to be super smooth with my aids or else Ringo will fuss and get tight in the back. Ok, but room for improvement.
E Volte right (8m)
Same as to the left.
EG Half-pass to the right.
G On center line.
Boom. Swag, baby. This felt really good. I love how the volte sets you up for a good half-pass.
Before C Collected walk.
C track to the left.
F Turn left.
Between G&M Half pirouette to the left.
You know, the half-pirouette actually wasn't that bad! This is a movement we've struggled with allllllll the way since second level, because when I first learned it I didn't ask very well, so Ringo learned a bad habit of sticking and pivoting with his hind leg instead of stepping around. Now even though I've learned to ask better, he still wants to stick, so I have to be proactive without making him tight. I actually got the balance right this time, and it felt good!
Between G&H Half pirouette to the right.
GM Collected walk.
Darn, I got a little ahead of myself. This one still needs work.
MRXV(K) Extended walk
I've been a little conservative with my extended walk so far this year, which is stupid because it's one of his best natural gaits and so I should show it off. I tried to go for it this time, and need to remind myself to be bold on show day too.
Before K Proceed in collected canter left.
KAF Collected canter.
Gah, another test where we have to strike off to the left, our markedly worse direction for that movement! I have to be 1000% on my game to make sure he's relaxed but collected in the walk, STRAIGHT, and going forward into the reins. Or else it's not pretty. If I don't get a good strike off (which this time around in practice, I didn't), I MUST use this first short side to get him going well or else the wheels. will. come. off.
FX Half-pass to the left.
X Flying change of leg.
I wish we could do this movement going the other way, with the right half-pass coming first, but here we are: beggars can't be choosers. So I need to go super deep into the corner, get his shoulders coming out of the turn first, then ride positively with more leg than rein to keep him supple. Surprisingly, the flying change has always gone pretty smoothly when I've practiced this movement, though I need to not take it for granted and make it as smooth and accurate as possible.
XM Half-pass to the right
M Flying change of leg.
MCH Collected canter.
The main problem I had this time was Ringo anticipating the flying change and so spoiling his (naturally very nice) right half-pass. I need to sit chilly and really guide him here to keep him on track.
H Proceed towards X in collected canter.
Between H&X half pirouette to the left.
THIS ACTUALLY WENT REALLY WELL. I WAS SHOCKED. I don't know how Kim would have rated it, but I was super thrilled.
HC Counter canter.
C Flying change of leg.
This change can get a little hairy if I don't settle and straighten him first. Fortunately this is quite similar to the Fourth level test, so at least we've practiced it a lot by now.
M Proceed towards X in collected canter.
Between M&X Half pirouette to the right.
AGAIN. THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENED. SO PLEASED. The circle was a little big this direction but he was more relaxed; that's always going to be the balance I'm going to have to strike, so I'm going to talk to Kim about which end of the spectrum I should lean towards on test day (I'm thinking bigger but more relaxed).
MC Counter canter
C Flying change of leg
Same as the other way. This is his easier change, so I need to be mentally sharp to not take it for granted. Then after the change, I need to really charge him up through the corner so that he won't be too slow or quiet coming into the tempi changes.
HXF On the diagonal 5 flying changes of leg every 4th stride.
FAK Collected canter.
The last change got pretty tense and up and down, but you know what, it was pretty good considering some of the ugly attempts I've had at the 4s in the past. Ringo and I both find the 4s harder than the 3s (more time to get tense anticipating), so it's something we've just got to keep working on.
KXM On the diagonal 5 flying changes of leg every 3rd stride.
MCH Collected canter.
Surprisingly good! Again, the very last one got a little tense, but in the grand scheme of things I wasn't complaining!
HXF Extended canter.
Ringo's boss move. I've just got to let it shine.
F Collected canter and flying change of leg.
FA Collected canter.
Ringo is actually pretty good at this move, but I've got to make sure I get him all the way back and listening to me before the change, or else he'll change super sketchily and tear off through the corner. Not good.
A Down center line.
Ringo was definitely more tired by the end of the test and we had a slight return to our centerline bolting problems, but to a tiny degree compared to before. I could still work on our canter-halts too, but in general it wasn't bad. And most excitingly, WE DID IT!!!!! WE FINISHED!!!
So in general, I'm thrilled. Obviously it's easier to do at home where Ringo is calm and relaxed, but this was a huge confidence boost, as up to yesterday I wasn't sure if we were actually capable of stringing all the movements together, regardless of the location. There is a lot to improve in the next two and a half weeks, but I'm not feeling (as) foolish for entering now. We might still bomb at the show, but if so it will because of nerves/tension (which we can only fix by going in the ring and trying to work through it) as opposed to just being flat-out unprepared. I'm ok with that for right now. In fact, I'm getting excited!!
(In other news, my cat has started going on rides with me - very clever kitteh)