Murray got a whole week off after Twin, due in equal parts to the fact that he had been the best pony ever, and also because that whole 40 hour a week job can be a real bitch. Predictably, I stalked the Ride On website until my videos were uploaded and have watched them all many times (okay, at least several). There are many interesting parts of the videos, but one of the most interesting is how stiff and tight Murray’s hind end looks in our dressage test. The footing at Twin is nice, and on Friday Murray had lunged really well, and was moving better than he does at home. Even when I lunge him at home, he moves better than he did in that test.
My MIL also commented that the test was lovely, and with more relaxation we’d be able to get rid of the bucking through the transitions. I agree. I could feel Murray getting tense and tenser and tenser through the test, so by the time we got to that right canter transition I knew that no matter how subtle my cue, I’d be getting some kind of kick out. What I really want to be able to do is take the tension that builds in Murray’s back and squeeze it out through the bridle throughout the test, instead of letting it build and build and build until it escapes through his butt.
Murray’s stiff-legged movement at Twin also suggests tension to me. And something that I’ve been working on for some time to get resolved. There seem to be two ways to get him to really unlock his hind end. I can do it with lateral work, or I can try to get him moving really straight and forward and sitting on his hocks. The first method is easier, but tends to end up with a bit of a noodle-horse for the rest of my ride. The second method is harder — a lot harder — and sometimes means days of fighting before we get to compliance.
Both are essential to our continued development in dressage, so I’ll be playing around with the two techniques over the next few weeks as we gear up for and think about Camelot. What I would really like is to be able to add a little more pressure at Camelot than I did at Twin and go for a bit more of a forward-thinking test. I’d also like to see more steadiness in the bridle. For this, it seems like we just need more practice and consistency. I have to make sure that I’m sticking to my guns and not letting Murray draw me into tugging or giving too much rein. I suspect that more forwardness will help with the steadiness too.
I’m also considering a bit change. Right now, Murray uses a loose ring French link with a flat bit in the middle. It’s pretty thin and light, but the link is jiggly and I bet there’s some play in his mouth. My trainer suggested the Stubben EZ Control again — I tried previously and didn’t see enough magical, mystical improvement to shell out $70 for a new bit. But now that we’re a bit more developed and capable, perhaps something gets really stable when Murray moves into the contact will encourage a bit more steadiness on both of our parts.
That’s what I’m thinking about for the next few weeks. Unfortunately, they’ll be somewhat inconsistent weeks as we have the WSS one day coming up, which is sure to take up at least a week of my time. And Murray started the prep for Camelot well by encouraging his new pasture mates to bite him like crazy in turnout this weekend, and was muscle sore again on Monday. So we’re back on the “if at first 1g of bute does not succeed” program.
I’m not totally sure how I can diminish tension in Murray by adding something he typically hates (leg), but that’s what dressage trainers are for. Good thing Tina is coming on Wednesday! But I’d love any thoughts you have about transforming tension into transcendentalism* in the show ring (Austen? Megan? Jenn? ANY HELP LADIES?) — even the baby steps of just starting to get there, which I know is where we’re at right now.
* Word chosen for alliteration and not meaning or accuracy.