Izzy has so much natural talent. He can do any of the movements that I ask for. His problem isn't a lack of fitness or muscle; it's a lack of confidence. We're getting there though, and it's all starting to come quicker and quicker. It's a good thing there's no due by date. We'll get there when we get there.
Izzy and I had another lesson the other day with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables. Because Izzy is maybe too relaxed at home, I've been taking him to my friend Amy's place so that we can see what it's like to work away from home even when you're nervous. And by you I mean Izzy.
When we were there a few weeks ago, I had to switch out his snaffle for my correction bit, borrow some longer spurs from Amy, and then Chemaine hazed him with the whip when he refused to go forward. For this visit, I started with the big guns - correction bit, whip, and long spurs. I needed him to know from the first instant that if he decided to think for himself, I would be there with an immediate correction. He thought about trying to tell me no, but a few jabs with the spurs stopped any jackassery.
Aside from a little tension, from the very beginning of the lesson his brain was engaged, and he was willing to work.
Riding two very different horses has given me a much better education than if I had had only Speedy to ride. Where Speedy wants to be heavy in my hand with his hind end trailing behind, Izzy offers me the opposite problem. He's too light in my hand, and he gets stuck without being able to drive forward. These last few months have been about getting Izzy to reach for the bit as he stretches and rounds his topline.
In every movement that we did, from shoulder-in to half pass to a trot lengthening, it was always the same: push him to the outside rein, let him stretch down, and then drive him forward again. Izzy is so tentative about connecting with the bit, that I almost have to always be thinking about shoulder-in to put him on the outside rein. Once he takes the bit, then I can push him forward.
Besides working on the connection to the bit, we played around with the flying change. I can sort of, almost, was that it? do a change on Izzy. In just a few short weeks he has learned that what I am doing up there is an aid. Now he's trying to figure out the answer.
He doesn't quite have it yet, but he knows that I am asking for something.
There are so many ways to teach flying changes. All it took for Speedy was to head into a corner on a counter canter; he hated that. He gave me a clean change the first time I asked. Izzy is far more talented, but he's a lot less confident. We've tried asking him in the corner, on a circle, going across the diagonal, but he doesn't quite trust that he can or should change leads. Yet.
Chemaine had me try another method for getting a cleaner change. Instead of just counter cantering across the diagonal, like you do in Third Level, she had me leg yield across the diagonal in counter canter. This really forces the new inside hind to step underneath. It took a few tries to get Izzy to cooperate, and I've been working on it since, but it helped him understand what I am asking for. We finally got a change while still cantering, even if it was a little wonky.
It's not that I need the flying change for any particular reason. I am really asking for it because the harder the question I ask, the more focused that Izzy becomes. And frankly, he does need to learn it. His counter canter is confirmed, and he can even pick it up on a circle. I don't plan to work on the changes every time I ride, I don't work on them with Speedy every day either, but it's time to start introducing them.
Izzy has so much natural talent. He can do any of the movements that I ask for. His problem isn't a lack of fitness or muscle; it's a lack of confidence. We're getting there though, and it's all starting to come quicker and quicker. It's a good thing there's no due by date. We'll get there when we get there.
When Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, came out for a lesson on Sunday, I was just expecting to keep chipping away at the movements we struggle with at Third Level, namely the half passes. Along with that though, Chemaine challenged us in the canter with a new exercise to soften our flying lead changes.
Speedy struggles with the right lead canter more than with the left. It probably has a lot to do with the fact that he wants to fall in on his right shoulder and swing his haunches out. When he does that, he doesn't have to cary so much weight behind. Chemaine has really hammered it home that he has to be in self-carriage all of the time. And now that I know that, I am insisting on it.
While we struggle with the trot half pass, we also struggle with the canter half pass, particularly to the right. Until Speedy is fully willing to carry himself, the work done in the canter - the half passes and the flying changes, will be harder for both of us. Fortunately for me, Chemaine always has a new exercise up her sleeve.
To help Speedy sit down in the canter so that I can prepare for the half passes and flying changes, she had us do a brand new exercise. Be prepared for your brain to hurt a bit.
This exercise could probably be used for a lot of different things, but what Chemaine was helping me do was get control after the flying change. Speedy loves to bolt forward after the change in a big yeehaw moment. After using some big half halts in those corners to really rock him back on his end, he quit pulling some much after the changes. I am surprised you can't really see it on the video, but I was using what felt like big, powerful half halts to get him rocked back off my hands.
So instead of a keep working on it post lesson chat, we were suddenly talking about a USDF show next weekend. in some ways, going way sooner than I had planned makes it easier because I have a lot less time to worry about it.
And really, it's not like we're starting a new level, we showed Third last year, it's just that I am desperate to get that one last score ...
Now that we're showing Third Level, I waffle between feeling rushed to get everything perfect, and relaxed knowing that I have all the time in the world. I mean, realistically, how much farther can we go? Sure, Fourth Level is looking like a distinct possibility, but after that? The FEI Level? I am not holding my breath.
So really, what's the rush? Over the weekend, I took some time to shore up some areas that I felt needed patching up, namely our flying changes and the overall quality of our canter work.
Earlier in the week, I broke our left to right flying change which put me in a complete panic since we have a USDF-rated show this weekend. A busted flying change is not what we need right now. I realized that Speedy needed more jump in his canter to get the change, so I played around with some canter to walk to canter transitions insisting that they be crisp and clear.
Wouldn't you know it, but suddenly, our canter had more jump and a much clearer rhythm. Our left lead canter was back on track, but the right lead was being hampered by the fact that Speedy's ribcage was pushing through my right leg. No bueno. So I schooled that a bit. Bend, half halt, MOVE OVER! A few dozen of those and magically our right lead canter got jumpier with a clearer rhythm.
And just like that, the flying changes were back. Who knew that getting your horse in front of your leg with a soft inside bend would fix faulty flying changes? Palm to face moment right there.
Part 1 here.
I usually move on to test 3 of a level after I get at least a mediocre score at test 2. Why are the second tests of the lower levels so horrible? I don't think there's a single test 2 that I've liked. We scored a 62.105% on Third Level's test 2 this Sunday. Did we hit a home run? No, but it was satisfactory enough that my trainer, Chemaine Hurtado - owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, thinks we're ready to move on to test 3.
The only new element in test 3 is rein back to trot. That doesn't mean test 3 is easy, we know that from 2-3 and 1-3. The third test is where all of the movements get thrown at you as quickly as possible in ways that do not appear to make any sense. Even so, I am ready to start tackling 3-3 and have even sent in my next two show entries. I may regret that decision. Oh, wait, I already do!
As you would expect from a slightly more challenging test, our scores dropped a bit for test 2. We didn't get a single 4.0 though. When we got to the walk to canter at F - a movement that caused us all sorts of trouble on test 1 (except that it was at C), I told Speedy he had better pick up the canter correctly. And just as a final reminder, while we were waiting for the judge to ring us in, I asked Speedy to pick up the canter from the walk several times. I may have even had a whip in my hand. My diligence paid off though as Speedy earned himself a nice little 7.0 for that transition to canter. Well done, Dude, well done!
The rest of the test went pretty solidly, not brilliantly, but it wasn't disastrous either. We need more suppleness, more uphill, better throughness, and more clarity between our collected and extended gaits. I get it. We're still a developing Third Level team and probably will be for quite some time.
One movement that I only started to do two weeks ago is the clear release of both reins for 4-5 strides over centerline at the canter. It shows up only in test 2. When Chemaine asked me a week or so how it was going, I laughed and said that I was just going to skip it. HAHAHAHA. "Um, no," came her reply.
She showed me what it should look like, I practiced it once or twice, and then I did it at the show at El Sueno earning a 6.0 both times. On Sunday, it looked awkward as heck, but the judge liked it well enough to give me a 7.5. Do not ask me what my body is doing. Instead look at how forward I shoved those reins. I wanted the judge to see that I was CLEARLY RELEASING THE REINS. Maybe I am sorry I am not doing 3-2 again.
If Second Level is all about the counter canter and the simple change, Third Level is about the flying change. Ours definitely still reside in the "developing" camp. Both changes earned 5.0s for test 2.
The judge's comment was very succinct and spot on, "kicked out." The next change got better quicker, but it still earned the same score. With the double coefficient for the flying change of lead, the 5.0s don't exactly help our overall score.
In the video, I look quite determined, and I was. Speedy was so behind my leg in the first test that I carried the whip around the outside warning him that he had BETTER WAKE UP PRONTO. It helped. Even so, getting him forward with more power but expecting him to be soft and supple is still really hard. For both of us.
One of my favorite moments though was this surprise shot caught at the very end of the test. I NEVER smile during a test, yet here I am looking as happy as can be!
This dressage court doesn't have the center line letters (DLXIG) marked on the main letters. I had just come from an extended canter M-F with a transition to collected canter F-A. From A, you continue up centerline in collected canter until the collected trot at L, which I couldn't find.
With no letters to help me, I was frantically chanting Daddy Loves eXotic Indian Girls hoping to find "I" (S/R) for my halt. In the photo I was laughing because I was certain I had overshot the "I." The judge gave us a 7.0 for the center line and halt, so it must not have been as big of an issue as I had thought, although from the photo, it's pretty clear I was way off. Good thing there was no judge at B/E!
Once upon a time, eliminating 5s from my score sheets was my goal. I am in that place again. I now know we can get 7s on every movement; we've already done it. Now the trick is to do it on a single test!
This Sunday, Speedy and I made the short trek to Tehachapi to show at a CDS-rated show hosted by my own CDS Chapter. We earned a 63% (and change) at Third Level!
Some of you already know how hard I am on myself. On the one hand, I am ridiculously giddy with glee. On the other, much larger hand, I am sitting here wondering if the judge had something in her eye as she watched me ride because 63% is a score I'll always be quite happy with but will never think we've earned.
About 10 seconds after seeing my score, I started beating myself up as I agreed with the 4 for the walk to canter but disregarded the two 7s for the flying changes. It's just so much easier to believe in the weak aspects of the ride than it is to accept the strong ones. We had 12 scores of 7.0 or 7.5. What more can I ask for? My trainer, Chemaine Hurtado - owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, is no doubt tired of trying to cheer me up when we do well. I am working on it, Chemaine, I am working on it!
While the score was not earned at a USDF-rated show, the judges at this particular CDS show series are notorious for being tough. I nearly always score better at USDF-rated shows than I do at this summer series. I decided that my effort deserved the score rather than just feeling that we got lucky.
During the warm up, a friend whom I haven't seen in ages, noted that Speedy was really carrying himself. I laughed and told her that I still feel like that struggling Introductory Level rider. Every level is a struggle, so it never feels as though we've "arrived!" Of course, I used to think that riders in levels above me were out there having a grand old time on their perfectly behaved, push-button horses. HAHAHA! Good thing the Intro Level me didn't know how much work it was going to be. If anything, it's just gotten harder.
This test was far from perfect, but after watching the video, I gave myself a little pat on the back. We're probably never going to kill it at Third Level, or Fourth, or ... , but we belong right where are. Without being in full training, I don't have the luxury of schooling a level above where I am showing. I need help with the movements that I am showing right now. And each time I show them, they'll get better and better.
So what scored well? The shoulder-in to start. Both of them earned a 7.0. We earned 3 scores of 7.5 - medium trot, rein back, and the left turn on the haunches. The rein back has a double coefficient so that made up for the 5.0 on our half pass right.
The best score though was for our flying changes. We earned 7.0s for both of them, and those also have a double coefficient. The judge noted that they were both clean. She didn't note their exuberance, something I am still working on, but clean is what matters.
So what didn't go so well? The right lead canter has always been a bit of a pebble in my shoe, a pain in my butt, and our achilles heel. I schooled that flippin' walk to canter at F and C a bazillion times. I remembered to look to the inside and get the inside bend, but Speedy still picked up the LEFT lead at C. Booger. So in the corner, I tried again, and again. By this point we were at M where the medium canter had to start, so I got the lead and then tried to rocket him from a walk to a medium canter. I wouldn't recommend that strategy.
It came as no surprise that we scored a 4 for that walk to canter transition, which was more than generous. And since I didn't get to set it up correctly, thanks a lot, dude, our medium canter also took a hit earning a 5.0. Thankfully neither of those movements carries a coefficient. Those two scores, combined with a previous 5.0 for the half pass right, were the only scores under 6.0 on the entire test.
I always try to learn something from each test and show. I had no huge AHA moments like from the show the weekend before - BEND YOUR HORSE and WATCH THE LETTERS, but the judge made an interesting comment on this first test. On the collective marks for Rider's Position and Seat, she wrote, Nice position, show more confidence. First of all, I never get positive comments on my position so that was incredibly nice to hear. Do I need more confidence? I would say that is spot on. I'll work on it, Judge.
I'll work on getting Test 2 written up for tomorrow. In the meantime, here's the video of our first test. That rowdy flying change comes at about 5:45 if you want to skip the boring stuff.
We're getting there even though "there" keeps moving. Dressage is a funny sport!
I am writing this on Saturday afternoon. By the time that you read it, Sunday's show will be over, and only then will I know how much of my Friday night cram session made it to the test. Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, came down to help me do some last minute "studying" for Sunday's second attempt at Third Level.
Just like studying for a real pencil and paper test, we did the lesson in a sort of flashcard style. On the first card, I wrote Turn on the Haunches on the front, and then flipped it over for the bullet points.
On the next card, I wrote Renvers (I hate you!), and flipped it over.
The Half Pass (trot or canter) card could really be Renvers part II; they're really similar.
The Flying Changes card is so filled with scribbled notes that some of them may have crept over onto the front of the card.
Did all of this work? I'll let you know tomorrow!
Well, we really and truly did it; Speedy G and I competed at Third Level, and we did it at a two-day USDF/USEF-rated show. Did we hit a home run? Nope, it was more of a bunt really, but at least we got on base. Even with scores below 60% (yes, really!), I am still sort of giddy about the whole thing.
I still can't believe we did it! Although what exactly "it" is, I am not sure since we didn't earn any kind of qualifying score. The four tests mean absolutely nothing. But still. Third Level!
I was hoping for more, but at least it was better than I had feared. The number one thing the judge penalized me for on 3-1 was the geometry. In the half pass, we didn't start at centerline and our 10-meter circles weren't 10-meter circles. Those two things cost me a fair amount of points.
A lot of things went very right on Saturday. Our very first centerline (3-1) earned an 8.0 and our first pairs of turn on the haunches earned 6.5 each. We also earned a 7.0 for our medium walk.
And of course, a lot went pretty wrong. Since we didn't actually make it to centerline, our first trot half pass earned a 4.5, but who cares! We did a trot half pass! The second one earned a 5.0 with the comment, "still not from CL."
The worst part was of course the flying changes. For the first one, we scored a 4.0 with the comment, "late behind."
The other one was worse, MUCH worse. The judge's comment was spot on, "late behind many, many steps" which was a kind way of saying, I didn't think he was EVER going to change! We earned a 3.0.
In total, we earned a 57.703% which was 8.5 points (out of 370) short of my goal. We've done worse, especially when first starting a new level. It felt better than the video looks though.
I had had a lesson with Sean Cunningham of STC Dressage on Friday night and then had him coach me on Saturday since Chemaine Hurtado, my regular trainer, couldn't be there. His feedback was really helpful. That night, after finishing both of my tests, I watched the videos and read over the judge's comments. I was determined to do better the next day.
While I gave a few half points (and even a few full points) back, our flying changes were much better the next day. Both of them scored a 6.0 which definitely raised the score from Saturday's 3-1 test where we had earned a 4.0 and 3.0. Both changes have a double co-efficient which means the changes earned us 24 points on Sunday compared to only 14 points the day before.
For 3-1, we improved by a full 6.5 points, but it wasn't quite enough. The brilliant 8.0 we earned on Saturday's first centerline fell to a very sad 5.0 on Sunday. When I tallied up my points, we missed a 60.0% by just 2 points. We lost that 60% down our first centerline and didn't even know it. We earned my least favorite score, a 59.459%.
To say I might have been a wee bit crushed would be accurate. After 4 minutes of cursing under my breath though, I realized that Speedy and I have another USDF/USEF show next month. And if we don't get a 60% there, we'll go to another show in August. We'll get it eventually.
We also rode Third Level's test 2 which I'll try to get written for tomorrow. No 60.0% there either, but we had fun!
On Tuesday, I had one of those lessons where your brain gets buzzy, and you almost feel like you had too much to drink. But in a good way. With Sunday's show likely to be cancelled, I told Chemaine, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, that I just wanted a regular lesson. There wasn't any need to try and polish anything up for the show. I am glad that's the direction we went because we tackled some of our fundamental weaknesses.
The first was our consistency. Chemaine used that word over and over throughout the lesson: consistency of frame. consistency of rhythm, consistency of bend, and so on. Now that we're showing Third Level, we have to kick it up a notch, tighten things up, and smooth out the rough edges.
Keeping Speedy consistent in his frame is my job. Too often he plays around trying to avoid the frame that I've established. As soon as Chemaine encouraged me to "get him consistent in the frame," something just clicked. She probably didn't see the light bulb come on over my head, but I sure felt it. By maintaining that consistency in his frame, he'll be more balanced in his collection and of course steadier in the bridle.
For the rest of the lesson, consistency became the theme. For the shoulder-in, Chemaine reminded me to keep a steadier tempo. Move the shoulders over, half halt to keep him on the rail, but then release the halt halt to allow him to move. So often my half halt is too long, preventing Speedy from moving forward. Chemaine encouraged a half halt, half halt, let go. Half halt, half halt, let go rhythm to encourage more fluidity in the shoulder-in.
She employed the same strategy for the renvers and the half pass. Half halt to move the haunches, keep a consistent bend, and allow him to move forward. Repeat, repeat, repeat. When we moved to the trot half pass, she changed the aids slightly by directing me to do shoulder-in slightly to haunches in to shoulder-in to haunches in. By putting all of this together, I was able to keep better flexion while keeping his haunches to the inside of the bend all while still maintaining a consistent tempo.
One weakness that's no longer is our medium trot. A year and a half ago, I could barely sit a working trot. I made it my mission to be able to a) sit the trot so that I could show at Second Level, and b) sit the trot so that I could someday get out of Second Level. I worked on it over last winter and by our first show in March of 2018, I could sit the collected trot, but I bounced all over the place for the medium.
I continued to work at it last summer until I could more or less sit the medium trot without too much air beneath my butt. Chemaine promised me that as Speedy's medium trot got more balanced, more powerful, and more uphill, the medium and extended trot would be easier to sit. She was right. I still don't sit it as effortlessly as I would like, but I am sitting it, and more importantly, I am actually creating the medium trot with my seat.
This series of screen shots is from one medium/extended trot across the long diagonal. Our extended trot looks suspiciously like our medium trot. Maybe the judge won't notice.
We couldn't finish the lesson without schooling the flying changes. They are so much improved, but there's still work to be done. The left to right change is almost reliable if I set him up correctly and remember to look in the direction of the new lead. The right to left change is still a bit hit or miss. It happens, but they're often dramatic or not clean or he simply changes before I ask. Here's a left to right change done relatively correctly (after about five attempts).
At the end of the lesson, I asked Chemaine to be straight with me. Compared to other adult amateurs on horses that they're bringing up from ground zero - in other words, riders not on school masters or $80,000 imports whose extended trot has to be tempered rather than developed, how do I stack up? I don't need to be awesome. I don't need a 70%. I just don't want to embarrass myself or her at a show. I don't want to be that rider that causes the judge and everyone around her to cringe.
While Chemaine's response didn't make me shout out hell yeah!, I was relieved. She replied, Let me put it this way: everything is recognizable. You know what? I'll take that. Recognizable is at least a 5, and maybe even a 6. We're ready.
On Monday afternoon, Speedy and I had a lesson. There is only one to go before we make our Third Level debut.
I know which movements are required at Third:
With Speedy tacked up and ready go, I dragged him over to a shady spot and quickly pulled up test 2 on my phone. My eyes raced through the movements but jerked to a halt when I read numbers 7 and 8, "K-E shoulder-in right" immediately followed by "E-H renvers left." Huh? I gave an audible uh-oh realizing that I needed to start hooking the movements together PDQ if I had any chance at earning that first 60%.
When Chemaine pulled in, I quickly filled her in on the reason for my sudden panic. I didn't know test 2 and needed some quick help. As I finished my warm up, Chemaine was quick to point out that our trot work had improved over the week and that our shoulder-in had a better angle. As I ride it, I hear her in my head shouting MORE ANGLE! I think it has helped.
While we have a better angle, and we can "do" a renvers (haunches out), I needed help riding them one after the other. Chemaine's advice was this: first, ride the shoulder-in. To develop the renvers, open the inside rein (which becomes the outside rein) to draw the shoulders into the arena. Change the bend, and then keep the haunches on the rail. And all of this happens in just a few strides.
The rest of the lesson was spent schooling the half pass, both at trot and canter, followed by the flying change. Speedy still wants to get charge-y after the change, so Chemaine showed me a new exercise that both gets him to sit and helps him wait for the flying change.
In test 1, there is a medium canter down the entire long side followed by a 10 meter circle at V. The flying change comes between X and R. To keep Speedy balanced, Chemaine had me do a walk-canter-walk transition anyplace I would do a half halt, so between the medium canter and the start of the 10-meter circle, I asked for a simple change but stayed on the same lead. Instead of a flying change, I asked for a simple change. We ran through this pattern a few times in hopes that Speedy would start to memorize the pattern of half halts.
Here's how the exercise went:
Our left to right change is getting pretty reliable. The other way is to still kind of wild and wooly.
We have just over a week to polish everything as much as we can.
But honestly, this horse is so much fun to ride that we'll have fun no matter how many movements I botch. It's a good thing that I have a trainer who embraces the idea that dressage is a long process where horses and riders develop over time.
Right now, Speedy and I are schooling both the half pass and flying change as diligently as possible. Our first show, only CDS-rated, is in less than three weeks. The judging at this show is pretty tough however, and always proves to be a good barometer for how we'll do at a USDF-rated show.
While we're working hard, I am super careful not to over-school the movements. Speedy tries so hard that if I keep asking, he assumes he's making a mistake, and that makes him very grouchy and resentful. The flying changes are now there, but they can still be a bit dramatic. Not this one though, it's a pretty quiet one.
Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, was here on Sunday for a lesson. Right from the start I told her that we need to continue cleaning up the lateral movements, namely the half pass, and getting those flying changes a little less ... exuberant.
I have to laugh at myself really. Last year at this time, I was dreading the show season. The move to Second Level simply terrified me. While I would stack my horsemanship skills up against anyone else's without feeling a moment of doubt, my dressage skills are still in the development stage. I can ride a horse a hundred miles, but 40-meters of medium trot in front of a judge turns my legs to jelly.
We made it through Second Level with decent scores though, even winning some honors along the way, but all season long I felt certain that someone was going to get wise to my subterfuge and point it out to the rest of the world. Even after working hard on it, I still feel like a bit of a hack.
This year? I can't wait to get in the show ring. We're probably going to lay down some questionable tests that will likely earn us some scores in the 50% range, but I am totally fine with that. I know that if I continue to work hard, Speedy and I will get those two scores we need to earn our bronze. With such a simple goal, the season seems more than manageable.
Instead of focusing on THIRD LEVEL - insert ominous tone, I've been breaking the three tests down into manageable chunks. For test 1, all we need to add is a more energetic shoulder in, a short half pass in trot, the flying changes, and a bigger medium trot. Right now, it's all there. It might not be fabulous, but it doesn't have to be. We only need to be satisfactory. Can I get an amen for mediocrity?
For test 2, we need to maintain everything from test 1 while making it better. We also need to add in a bit of renvers and show a clear release of both reins for 4-5 strides over centerline. That may or may not happen for our first show. By late in the season, it'll be automatic.
Since not getting overwhelmed is my strategy for the year, I haven't paid much attention to test 3 (yet). On Sunday, we did school the canter half pass to centerline to the half circle. For a horse that anticipates the flying change - looking at YOU, Speedy!, this series of movements is likely to be a bugger. I am honestly not worried though. Speedy and I haven't taken any shortcuts through the levels, so the foundation is there. And every week, we get better and better.
My homework for the week is to work on Speedy's lateral suppleness by doing extreme leg yields across the entire diagonal. I am to follow those with half passes that also cross the diagonal. Making them as steep as I can get them will serve us well when we have to do them from the centerline to the rail. They'll seem practically "easy" then.
Chemaine also showed me an exercise to help with the canter half pass. In it, I am to ride a circle where the shoulders transcribes a smaller circle than the haunches, and then the haunches will transcribe an even smaller circle than the shoulders. She called it a waterfall: first the shoulders, then the haunches all the while "falling" in on the circle to make it ever smaller.
I am constantly amazed at how hard Speedy will work for me. He wasn't bred for dressage. He doesn't have a naturally uphill balance. He's just a nicely put together Arabian gelding who was bred to be able to do whatever his rider asks, and if she says please, he usually gives it to her.
That doesn't mean he'll do it opinion free though. I've learned to ask and then hold on!