Last July, I took Speedy to the California Dressage Society's Regional Adult Amateur Competition, a USDF/USEF rated show. We showed Training Level Tests 2 & 3 to great success. We earned a first place 67% in a championship class to finish out our year.
At a recheck visit with the vet in April, it was decided that the earlier diagnosis was very unlikely, and Speedy was cleared for work. I've slowly brought him back to walk, trot, canter under saddle, but we are nowhere near First Level. I am taking him to a CDS-rated show tomorrow where we're showing Training Level 2 & 3. I just want to see where we actually are.
Last night's ride was the first one in which I really rode him without worrying about whether he was fit enough or not. For the past three weeks, I've ridden him very conservatively to ensure that he doesn't tweak something for lack of fitness. He feels sound, but he lacks a lot of impulsion, and I can very clearly feel his lack of balance.
The best thing about Speedy's lay-off was that he got a break, which he might have needed, and I got to improve my riding by schooling Sydney. I am not sure if Speedy actually lost balance. Did I just get better at detecting it? I am hoping that we can earn at least some 60s tomorrow.
I love this horse. At times, I have felt incredible frustration in knowing that I did not possess the skills to ride him effectively. There were months at a time that I simply wanted to sell him and be rid of the problem. I am so glad I didn't. Even my trainer can see how much he enjoys being with me and how happy he is becoming in the work that we are doing.
My homework for this week has been to slow down the walk before I ask for a canter transition. While we were warming up, I could feel that I have been allowing him to rush in the trot work as well. When he rushes the trot, he starts the canter hurried. So we played around with collecting the trot to get a better canter. Well duh.
I had a pretty big epiphanic moment last night; a bunch of stuff just sort of jelled. For several years, JL has been telling me to slow down the front end. I really truly felt the why of that command. Rushing is the cause of imbalance. If I want my horse to be balanced, I need to slow down the front end and rev up the hind end. I knew this before, I understood what she meant, but last night, I finally felt it become part of my muscle memory. (If that's really possible.)
I am not saying Sydney has a perfect walk to canter transition, but it has improved markedly in just a week. The right lead canter departure from the trot is still funky, but again, at least there is a departure. His buttons might not be firmly installed yet, but we're getting close.