So the show this past weekend was good in a number of ways.
First, Kaswyn was super excited and decided to be fabulous during Debbie's Intro C test. He did his extended trot down the long side and was basically a boob. She ended up trying to half halt him the entire test. She did a good job with it, but of course it wasn't exactly pretty. She got a 53%, but amazingly got second place out of four horses with that. He settled down for his second test, Training 1, and was much better. Sure, there were times he could have been rounder or had more bend, but she did everything she was supposed to do and didn't go off course. He was much better behaved and they got a 63%, but were 4th out of five horses in that one. Not bad for her first time cantering in dressage!
As for Phil, he was really tense and nervous again, so I did what I'd been doing at home, which was really using my leg and seat to push him to my hand. It worked fine in the warm-up, but when we were in the ring he just wanted to blow through my hand. He was very very tense, and we got a 56%. The judge said I needed to allow him to go forward, and that I was stopping him, but if I hadn't stopped him he would have blown out of there! Of course she can only judge what she sees and doesn't know anything about his past, so I agree with the score. It wasn't a pretty test.
I only had 30 minutes between my rides, so I just stayed on him for ten minutes and hung out in the shade. Then I went back in the warm-up and worked on just hacking around. I thought of what my trainer said during one of my lessons - that I should be able to have a cocktail and ride this horse; in other words he should be easy enough to ride that I can just chill out. So I stopped trying to drive him so hard into my hand and just let him be. His connection has been much more solid lately and I found that I could just relax and let him go forward and he'd actually go into my hand, with the occasional hug from my leg. We went in the ring and we had a much more relaxed test. Nice connection, and he really listened to me, and didn't seem overly stressed out. His gaits weren't as impressive, but I was going for calm and relaxed, so I was happy with what he gave me. We got a 63% and second place out of 5 horses. I think during the first test I just drove him way too hard into my hand and it stressed him out rather than made him feel secure in the connection. So that was totally my fault. But at least I learned something. Oh, and I think I was sitting up much better and wasn't getting so far forward. So that's an improvement!
I think at this point what I need to do now is get him straighter and get better bend. I've been working so hard on the connection, which I think has improved a bunch, but now I need to fix the crookedness. There were times in the second test that I knew he was crooked but I didn't want to try and fix it too much for fear that I'd ruin the good vibe that we had going. I think I now have a solid plan for how I need to ride him at shows vs. how I ride him at home. So that's good.
I'm still downloading/uploading videos. So stay tuned!
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