Here's a short video of that exercise.
Izzy's been a tough nut to crack; we all know this. One minute he can be offering flying changes, a lovely uphill canter, or even a trot half pass.
In the very next minute, he can't make a left hand turn without ripping off my arms and nearly bashing me in the face.
With Speedy being so intent on injuring every part of his body, I decided that Izzy has got to start earning his keep. When Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, pulled into the ranch for Sunday's lesson, I let her know that Izzy needs to step up his game.
We discussed what he can do: half pass - sort of, flying changes when I ask - sometimes, walk to canter to walk - also sometimes, stretchy trot circle - actually better than Speedy ever did, a decent trot to canter transition, counter canter, and he's sometimes straight. Give all of that a good shake, and then roll the dice to see what turns up. We decided to call him a First Level horse - in training. It's been more than a year since I've ridden a First Level test, so Chemaine had to remind me what we'll need to work on.
Now that I can get Izzy in front of my leg - most of the time, it's time to start playing around with adjusting his stride. That's where we started. Chemaine had me do a bunch of transitions within the gait. Nothing wild or crazily new in that concept, unless you're a big brown horse who hasn't been able to lengthen his stride at all. I think Chemaine was a bit surprised at how easily he offered a longer stride.
And then since I can, one more of that baby lengthening of stride.
We also played around with the leg yield. Since Izzy moves laterally so easily, unlike the Speedy pony, it's more about keeping all of his parts in line without letting the shoulders lead too much while leaving the haunches behind.
The biggest First Level movement we'll have trouble with is the canter to trot transition at X, and later, the canter to trot to canter transition at X. Damn X anyway. Once Izzy starts cantering, he just can't stop. Especially if we cross the diagonal. All he sees is more real estate to cover. And in his opinion, the faster the better.
According to Izzy, trotting in the middle of a good long run seems like a dumb idea. He would much rather keep on cantering and turn it into a counter canter; that he understands. In fact, once this horse canters, it's really hard to get him to stop.
As much as I'd love to just write my own test - A enter cantering, X continue to canter, C track left still cantering, E canter left 20 meters, K-A-F canter, F-X-H change rein, C counter canter ... USEF won't let me. So for now, Izzy has to learn to do that transition without me needing to haul back on the reins to half halt his freight train of a canter.
Always one to think on her feet, Chemaine offered two different tools to keep Izzy on my aids. The first was to think shoulder fore as we canter through the corner, heading for X. This will keep him on my outside rein as I ask for the transition to trot.
When that doesn't work, and you knew it wouldn't be that easy, Chemaine said, "If he falls off your outside rein right away, canter a 10-meter circle." And the beauty of that exercise is that there are a lot of 10-meter circles as you cross the diagonal.
Eventually, we got a few good canter to trot transitions across the diagonal. I love having a plan, so focusing on the movements at First Level with an eye to finally, finally getting this horse into a show ring only increases my motivation.
Here's a short video of that exercise.
One of the things that I love most about Chemaine is that she is never out of ideas. She works the horse and rider that show up for that day's lesson. It's a good thing because next week, Izzy might show up acting more like an Intro Level horse!