Well, the title is a bit of a misnomer; I didn’t exactly ride a test. I rode pieces of a test, sort of.
Anyway, with that exciting lead in…I bring you a very short ride recap with no media. I do hope to have video/gifs of this ride soon, and will recap more thoroughly when I get them.
My barn hosted a very small, local ride-a-test on Sunday. For a low entry fee, and the commute of approximately 5 minutes of walking up the hill to the dressage arena, it was an easy sell for me. It gave us something to aim at, which proved really helpful this past week.
After Tristan dumped me on Tuesday, I gave him Wednesday off because I was still pissed, and then Thursday off because I had CrossFit in the evening. On Friday, I went back out and put him back in his dressage bridle with his usual bit (a French link full cheek) and sat on him to see what I had. Nothing dramatic one way or the other, which I was fine with.
Then on Saturday morning we had a lesson that was equal parts “where are we now?” (after a month of lighter riding/bitless riding) and “come to Jesus.” We had some really terrific bits, including a great change in my seat that leveled up my feel in the canter considerably. He was puffing pretty good and quite sweaty but overall chill. It was just exactly what I could have hoped for before the Sunday show.
Sunday our ride time was 1:55, on the hottest day of the year so far, of course. I am somewhat susceptible to heatstroke, and Tristan is older and his Cushing’s can sometimes mean heat intolerance, so I planned everything like a military campaign, down to the amount of water I made myself drink, and a minute-by-minute warmup plan that included stops for water.
And, for once in my life, I was really happy with my warmup. We did 10 minutes in the indoor, establishing forward and a bit of bend, then moved up to the jump ring (halfway to the dressage ring) for about 8 more minutes of drilling him, incorporating more bend, a more militant response to my leg (ie “jump NOW” rather than praise for any forward response) and then all the way up to the ring.
Sometimes I enter the show ring and my tunnel vision results in a bad ride, because I lose subtlety; sometimes, it pays off in sheer determination. Sunday was the latter.
We did not do a test, precisely, but we showed off pieces of First Level work: 15m circles, a stretchy trot circle, transitions in and out of canter, a hint of extended trot, some diagonals. We worked for maybe 5-8 minutes, and then got feedback on two things.
(I should insert here that I usually lesson with the barn manager, and rarely/almost never with the barn’s actual owner/trainer for a lot of reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with quality – she is amazing! – and more to do with schedule/convenience/budget/momentum. So our “judge” today was the barn trainer which was extra great to get a new-ish set of eyes.)
The first was that our stretchy trot circle was great! And we need to not just use it in that one movement. So we worked for a bit on incorporating the feel of a stretchy trot into his regular trot work, combining that with the bend we had on the 15m circle – only into the 20m circle.
The second was to work on his falling in on the circle in the canter, so we did some work that involved transitioning from big 20m+ circles to 12m circles, then leg yielding in the canter out to the rail. Tristan didn’t even know what to do with his hind end, and it was great.
Overall, I was thrilled with the day, and Tristan cooled down easily and well with the steps I took to walk him out, hose him down, and then sit with him while I ate watermelon for my own hydration.
The only real blip was that on the walk back to the barn on a loose rein he threw another tantrum, a couple of leaps about that were in theory a reaction to a truck behind us, but the truck had been there for a little while at that point, so really, it was pure Opinion. With the bit in I did the usual HELL NO and he came out of it quickly and got over it. A few strides later I put the reins back on the buckle and that was that.
So: huzzah, all around!