I got to the barn last night and the ring was littered with random stuff: chairs, poles, jump standards, cavaletti blocks. The two lessons that had just wrapped up were beginners, and they were working on steering.
Sweet. Since I am at such a dressage-centric barn, I almost always err on the side of laziness and leave the poles in the corner. Now I had an excuse to play with them!
I longed in the halter only, and started off with some quick warm-up circles in an open area, then transitioned to a circle of death exercise. (We’ve done this more in-depth before; for diagrams, see this post.)
I started pretty aggressively, with poles set on the second highest setting of the cavaletti blocks.
The middle of these options.
I only set cavaletti on the outside end, to create an angled pole. Things started kind of ugly, with Tristan either ducking inside the circle or doing super-awkward dives and hops to the cavaletti in order to get over them. He hates to touch them, and will usually clip one only once, but he does resort to ridiculous antics to get over them. He’s a horse who “does his own footwork” in that he will get you over the jump, but he is rarely hunter-pretty at it without some serious work.
We had an argument about ducking inside the circle, that resulted in some bucking and cantering and kicking out, but after 10 minutes or so of going both ways, he started nailing the striding and taking the poles in stride, really stretching over his back and articulating his hock and stifle to do so. I made sure to give lots of praise for each one correctly achieved, and he clearly started gaining confidence and hunting them out, instead of avoiding them.
I then dropped the cavaletti blocks and dragged the poles to the outermost bounds of a 20m circle, and worked on cantering a bit. The first few were exciting – Tris slid right to the “base” of a pole and launched himself in a deer leap that would’ve cleared a 3′ fence, then landed bucking and snorting. He then proceeded to jump each one, awkwardly, in turn. Then he decided to drop to a big beautiful flowing trot stride over each pole. Finally, he took the poles in a canter stride and then started putting together an entire circle of even canter strides. It was pretty neat to watch.
I was pleased with his work, overall. Tonight: long hack with some uphill trots.