dressage check in

Camelot is just five weeks away, and so of course I’ve planned out both a general plan, weekly plan, and daily plan for seven days out of each week between now and then.

Planning soothes the soul.

Our dressage definitely requires the most planning. ¬†Last year, my dressage goals were “stay in the court, don’t get eliminated” which I managed to barely succeed at. ¬†I didn’t have any goals about scores or placing¬†or actually performing tests to their specifications — I just wanted to get in and get out and get on to jumping. ¬†So I rode the way I knew would make Murray the least annoyed, keep him the most consistent, and generally just tried to make dressage fun.

I do¬†love dressage, and over¬†the last year, we’ve been working very hard at it. ¬†Very hard. ¬†But the way I work on dressage is¬†not¬†what gets points in dressage tests. ¬†I use a lot of over bending and shoulder-in and shoulder-fore to get Murray using his back. ¬†I deter Murray’s attempts to not use his haunches by asking him to haunches-in or -out every time he drifts them one way or the other, making him¬†really use his haunches if he wants to be lazy. ¬†I try to do a lot of stretchy trot. ¬†Cantering is usually a bit of a torrid affair of¬†noooooooo I can’t possibly lift my back in the canter oh wait, you want me to flex a bunch and give that way okay! ¬†It’s not the prettiest, but it achieves the goal of strengthening his back, and¬†we are working up to relative elevation of the forehand slowly.

5-21 dressage 8

I know I can’t ride the test the way I ride at home. ¬†And I need to figure out how to ride in the test to get the best results out of Murray while still achieving my ultimate obsession with sustainable dressage. ¬†So I had a test-check-in lesson with Alana where I warmed Murray up like I would at the show (long walk, a little trot and canter, transitions, then a break and walk into the other arena for the test) and rode Novice A for her. ¬†I have to ride all different tests because Murray learns tests pretty quickly and anticipates and gets tense, but since Novice A has all the same movements as BN A, I figured it is comparable.

Murray was fairly foul to warm up, and I will admit I was pretty disappointed. I got cranky, kicking canter transitions, and hollow trot transitions.  But that might just be all I get at a show, so I have to be prepared to ride that too.  I tried not to override Murray in the warm up, and after I got a good canter transition I called it and wandered over to the other arena for the test.

two-legged dressage is Murray’s favourite dressage

Murray was suuuuuuper noodly and uneven, falling through his haunches pretty badly down the centerline (and throughout). ¬†He also got really cranky about his right circle and it was much more a rounded square. ¬†I rode conservatively and¬†didn’t really get the canter transitions. ¬†And the walk-trot transition was a freaking joke — it is supposed to happen at C and I didn’t get it until H. ¬†Embarrasssinnngggg. ¬†Murray was also really inconsistent in the contact. ¬†Overall, what I got was tense and disobedient. ¬†I did, however, get a banging free walk and a square, straight, badass halt. ¬†So I anticipate those two things will never turn¬†up at a show ever.

Alana¬†was like “damn he’s got a bug up his butt!” and told me to just try to make all my cues a little lighter to see if I couldn’t make Murray think they were more of his idea. ¬†Even though she said she can barely even see when I’m cuing him to the next gait, I should just¬†think trot and lighten my seat and see if that works a bit better. ¬†Alana also advised me to drive him straight down the centerline, pretend I’m going to smash him into the judges’ booth right up until three strides before the turn so I don’t accidentally make him bulge with my legs, and keep my reins shorter for a more consistent contact. ¬†So after a long walk break, we did the test again.

Murray was definitely better the second go around, but there’s clearly something about the way I ride practice tests and real dressage tests that lets Murray know he can be more opinionated than during a schooling ride and get away with it. ¬†He refused to canter when I first asked him to, and I had to kick him into it. ¬†The walk-trot transition also got him all cranky and squealing and horrid again, so we re-did it and after a longer medium walk he had a¬†perfect transition. ¬†His right canter transition I had to really thump him, and ended up having to do it a few times to get it right. ¬†However, we managed to maintain the good halt again, so that was nice.

5-21 dressage 4

Despite Murray being cranky in the lesson, it was a really good one. ¬†I¬†have to be able to maintain my composure if he comes into the test rotten, and ride each movement independently. ¬†But in order to avert the dressage monster’s emergence, here’s our homework.

  • Practice dressage rides like the tests more often — warm up, work, long walk break, then go to the indoor and do a test. ¬†Instead of letting him get away with ignoring me during the test, I have to keep¬†things black and white in my practice tests, so he doesn’t think that the dressage court is a canvas for his opinions.
  • School the transitions¬†a lot. ¬†And all kinds of transitions — long walk break, short trot, short walk break, long trot. Walk, trot, canter. ¬†Murray has to be right on the aids, and has to get over his ‘tude regarding me asking him to do things.
  • Develop a warm up plan — more on this later. ¬†But I need to figure out the best way to get Murray calm and relaxed in the show environment but¬†also working and listening to me. ¬†If you have any suggestions for a horse who tends to be tense, looky, and unpredictably cranky, I’d love to hear them!
  • Develop a soft canter off a soft transition — every time!

I feel like there was more homework from this lesson, but I honestly can’t remember it. ¬†Which is bad. ¬†However, there it is. ¬†Five week plan. ¬†Five more practice test rides (it’s too weird to do a full practice test more than once a week!), probably ten or fifteen more dressage rides on top of that, and a few lessons. ¬†So scary when I think of it like that! ¬†Five more jump lessons, five jump schools, five conditioning rides. ¬†So little time!!

Anyway, I will get a chance to practice the test off property on Saturday, so we will see what warm up strategies I can come up with then!