Looking forward to championships, Kim has been really trying to push us to the next level. In our lesson this week, this meant focusing on two specific points: upping the power of the collected trot and canter, and improving the quality of the pirouettes.
It's interesting to now be adding power to the trot, when I feel like throughout Ringo's career I've been continuously trying to take the edge off and keep him in the box. He used to be so strong and would threaten to get away from me by the end of every test I did with him. It was a labor of years to get to the point where I felt like he stayed calm, relaxed, and chilled out in the ring. So, it felt weird to suddenly be firing him back up again!
But as Kim reminded me, this time around we're trying to get that old energy but without losing the relaxation we've worked so hard to create. It's amazing to feel Ringo's newer bigger and more powerful gaits when he stays loose through his body: whereas before he used to get quick and racing when I tried to add power, now he can actually keep the same tempo but actually grow bigger and more impressive.
At both trot and canter, Kim encouraged me to keep pushing the boundaries of the range of Ringo's gaits, asking for bigger extensions and smaller collections. Here's some of the short canter-big canter work we did:
Then, it was time to move on to the pirouettes. Basically our problem with them now is that in the test Ringo has developed a bad habit of rushing out of the corner, meaning that I have to spend the diagonal fighting to get him back to a normal collected canter instead of being able to take my nice collected canter and turn it into a super-collected pirouette canter. As a result, the piris are too quick, unbalanced, and lack control.
To work on this, Kim first asked me to really exaggerate the collection going into the pirouette. It... didn't go that great. And resulted in a few attempts like this:
Basically at the slower speed, Ringo quickly realized that breaking was an easy way to get out of working. And, in an attempt to keep him from breaking, I got into a bad cycle of getting really tight and scrunched in my position and riding too hard. Not pretty.
To solve the problem, Kim had us play a little game of "Ring-Around-the-Trainer." Basically Kim stood at the spot on the diagonal where my pirouette was supposed to go, and I had to make the pirouette big enough to go around her. This solved the breaking problem by forcing me to make the pirouette big enough that Ringo could handle the more collected canter without wanting to find a way out, and as an added bonus it allowed Kim to yell at me to relax at close range!! Haha.
It wasn't an immediate fix, and the first few times I still managed to get too tense and hard in my riding, resulting in this reaction:
But after a few tries, we were really starting to get the hang of it:
Was it perfect? No. But for the first time, it really felt like we were moving in the right direction. Even after having Kim tell me so many times that I needed to chill out in my aids, it was really surprising to feel how relaxed I needed to be in order to let him turn properly: my instinct is definitely to think that if I buckle down and ask him HARDER HARDER HARDER, it will make him better. But it won't. He goes best when I allow him to move freely. You know, like pretty much every theoretical text on riding, EVER, would tell you. Huh. Imagine that. Dressage definitely keeps finding new ways to keep me humble!
To the right (our stronger direction), things in general went a lot smoother:
After our last successful pirouette attempt to the right, Kim had us go straight into a line of 4s and then a line of 3s, focusing on riding forward but deeper in my seat than I'm naturally inclined to do. And we actually nailed it! And caught it on video!
The next is obviously to try to actually get that quality in a test! It's really cool to feel the difference in the tempis now compared to even two months ago when we moved up at GMHA.
Good boy, Ringo!! What an amazing, amazing horse :)