After having some lunch and getting settled in, I saddled Speedy and head out to the warm-up ring. I started out with lots of walking and a suppling exercise that I had learned from Chemaine the month before.
Chemaine Hurtado, of Symphony Dressage Stables, is based at CastleRock Farms in Moorpark. She is an outstanding trainer. If you live anywhere near Ventura, and you're looking for dressage help, I suggest you give her a call at 805-340-3246.
The walk work and the trot work seemed to go okay. I wasn't as happy as I had been at the show two weeks prior, but it wasn't a total disaster until I asked for the canter. Crap. I knew I was in trouble.
The first summer I showed, back in 2010, I got lots of comments that read hollow, needs steadier contact, needs better energy, and above the bit. It took a while to start feeling what those things really meant. Now that I know what hollow feels like, I do everything to avoid riding it. Speedy's canter on Friday was so hollow that I felt as though I was riding a hammock with a head and a tail. His back couldn't have been any lower without his belly dragging on the ground.
After a half hour, I started to feel sorry for my mom, but I felt like I just had to get something that approached a canter transition or I was going to be in big, big trouble on Saturday. I never did get a good transition, but at least the bucking and kicking tapered off. To say I was discouraged, frustrated, and bummed out would be a classic understatement. I just didn't want my mom to have driven 650 miles to watch a 55% dressage test. I put Speedy away and sent Chemaine a frantic text: HELP!
The plan had already been for Chemaine to coach us through both tests each day as needed. She needed to be at El Sueno anyway later that evening so we planned to meet at 6:30 for an emergency pull us together lesson. Knowing that help was on the way, I was able to relax and visit with my mom.
When Chemaine arrived, my mom was quite impressed that I would be using the ear pieces to hear Chemaine's instructions. She thought Chemaine's whole approach was pretty classy and upscale. After listening to the lesson and watching me magically improve to become an actual dressage rider, Mom promoted Chemaine to Trainer Extraordinaire!
Chemaine's quick assessment was that Speedy was tight in the back so we worked on getting him to stretch over his top line. If you've been following any length of time, you already know that the stretchy trot is my nemesis. Chemaine was finally able to show me a way to effectively ask Speedy to consistently stretch down. By Sunday afternoon, I could get him to stretch down nearly on command and he liked it! I earned three 6s and a 6.5 for our stretchy trot during the tests. That 6.5 was one of my favorite scores of the weekend!
- Pick up a trot on a 20-meter circle.
- Open the outside rein.
- Weight the inside seat bone.
- Wiggle the inside rein.
- Add inside leg.
- When he's on the outside rein, flex him to the inside.
- When he gives, give the inside rein by scratching his neck at the withers.
- Repeat about a million times.
- On the one millionth plus one time, as soon as you scratch his withers with your finger, he will beg to stretch down!
I discovered that while I am not afraid of him bolting and running off, I am afraid of "handling" that bigger and bolder movement. It takes a lot of balance and control to keep that energy connected without falling apart (as in the trot loops at Training Level Test 3). I also discovered it's a lot like riding a bike: if you go too slowly, the bike wobbles and you fall over. If you can get your bike zooming along, you can ride the energy forward.
Do I see trot lengthenings in our very near future? More tomorrow ...