Since finishing up with Training Level at the CDS Championship show this fall, Speedy and I have seen some excellent progress at First Level. We're getting ready for another visit with Christian Schacht, and our first show of the year will be in March. I doubt we'll be getting scores in the high 60s, but I know it's the right level for us.
The thing that I am enjoying the most right now is that I can immediately feel when Speedy is working correctly over his back and when he isn't. In the past, most of my efforts were in getting him forward. Now that I can get forward, I can get him more and more connected with the bridle, lifting his back and withers. There are days however, when this takes a long time to achieve, days like Saturday.
When I rode Speedy on Saturday, there was a large piece of farm equipment rattling around in the cherry orchard behind the arena. It's not a piece of equipment that gets used very often, and it even bothers me. I am not sure what it's actually doing, but it sounds as though it's vacuuming up gravel. It's a tension causing machine for sure.
Speedy reacted to the noise by being very heavy on the forehand, ignoring my half halts, and resisting my seat. I tried all of my exercises to help him relax: a big, bold hand gallop, leg yields, long and low trotting, and my new favorite, trotting a figure eight while on a counter bend.
None of the exercises did the trick individually, but when used collectively, Speedy finally began to come through and over his back. He never gave me the really good work that I know he can do, but it was gratifying to feel him finally begin to soften and swing.
My point, however deeply obscured, is that I am grateful for the new level of feel that I have developed over the winter. I am feeling tension that I couldn't feel before, and I am better able to help him work out of it. It's my puny version of we're kicking some butt around here.
Let the butt-kicking continue!