Now that Speedy and I are putting it all together in a test format, the words have taken on a whole new level of meaning. Those 10-meter circles can't be done without a certain degree of balance. The same can be said for all of the movements at First Level, especially those in test 3.
For our next show, we're doing tests 2 and 3 which has meant that I've needed to start putting the test 3 movements into my daily ride rather than doing them only occasionally. Some of the movements have proven easier than others, but there were a few that were trickier than they look on paper.
1. K-X Leg yield right, X-H Leg Yield Left:
The leg yield right is the hardest one for Speedy to do because he doesn't want to be on the right rein. The counter flexing exercise that Chemaine had us do has helped with getting the new bend.
Just before we reach centerline, I start thinking about doing one or two straight strides before I weight my new inside leg and go back to the right bend. Speedy struggles with his balance switching from one leg yield to the other, but doing what I call a zig zag leg yield a few times first, gets him better balanced.
2. R Circle right 10-meters; B Turn right; X Halt, Proceed working trot; E Turn left; V Circle left 10-meters:
Instead of putting this whole movement together all at once, I've been doing 10-meter circles in random places followed by a halt. We then trot forward, but not necessarily into the turn. When I feel some good adjustability, that's when I'll link both circles.
I also discovered that when I do a trot lengthening after the second circle (from F to H), Speedy really gives me some good, long strides. When we return to working trot at H, that has been a good way to half halt through the corners to set Speedy up to repeat the 10-meter half circles. It feels like he wants to stretch and lengthen after sitting for those two circles.
MXK Change Rein; X Change of lead through trot:
In order to show him what I want, I've been doing lots of canter to trot transitions on a circle. My aid for the downward transition is to give a little half halt with my outside rein while I step into my outside stirrup. When I get a prompt downward transition, picking up the left lead is easy. If I have to get really strong with my hands, he hollows his back and flings his head up.
Right now, I'm riding this movement on a short court which means we come out of the canter needing to do a quick canter to trot before picking up the new lead. I am hoping that by practicing in such a small area, I'll have a lot more time to prepare for the downward when we actually show. In the meantime, Speedy's getting better at the change of lead through trot.
The Whole Test:
A friend who started First Level last year told me that I'd enjoy this level. She was right, there is so much more to school than at Training Level that my rides are jam packed with too much to work on. I know Speedy is thoroughly enjoying the variety in his work. While we warm up with 20-meter trot circles, it's nice to be able to do something else.
If you're still at Training Level yourself, get good at it, because First Level starts to be fun when those boring basics are pretty solid. I keep telling Izzy the same thing. I hope he's listening!