Yesterday we had our first lesson at boot camp. In the three days before I had been working on getting Phil’s neck longer and lower, and getting him in front of my leg by letting him go and pushing him into my hand.
We started on the 20 meter circle, just working on the trot. My trainer said she liked his neck longer, but it needed to be rounder and not so straight. When I asked Phil for a rounder neck, he would fuss with the contact. So she had me push him but also slow him down my slowing my posting. She said he didn’t have a well established working trot – that he kept speeding up or slowing down, and was fussy in the contact. So there would be a lot of adjusting by me until he was able to be more consistent.
Around this time, Mr. K came to watch and visit with my trainer. He has a farm across the street, and has been in the dressage business for years. Although he presents a prickly exterior, he’s really a nice guy. He’s not overly expressive, but he knows his stuff.
My trainer asked me to keep him on the 20 meter circle and give him a 10 meter circle bend. In this way we could get the bend through the body like on a 10 meter circle but he would still feel like he had the freedom of a 20 meter circle. Then we did some serpentines, but four loops in stead of three, all the time working on bend and consistency of contact.
Then we went to the 10 meter circles down the long side. She had be fit four or five circles in instead of three, since Phil is so compact. She said that he was losing impulsion on the circle as we were approaching the wall again, so she had me put him in shoulder-fore for the last third or so of the circle. That really helped him to keep the shoulders in a bit and not feel like he had to immediately go straight when the wall was coming.
Next she asked for a slight lengthening. Not a medium, or extended, just a lengthening. We headed across the diagonal and I asked for just a little. Phil responded nicely, and gave me just a bit of lengthening. Then, of course, he knew what we were doing and got himself all excited. He started rushing so my trainer had me do trot-walk-trot transitions on a few 20 meter circles to get him to realize that he’s got to slow his thinking and listen.
Then we did another lengthening. It was more than the last one because Phil was into it. My trainer liked it, but again, we had to do a couple of 20 meter circle with trot-walk-trot transitions. Then my trainer said “Okay, one more, but I want you to own this one. Own that trot.”
So as I sent Phil across the diagonal, I asked for a big one. And he went ALL IN. He sat and pushed into my hand, all the way across the diagonal. I felt the lift of his back, glorious suspension, and a much longer stride without running. It was fabulous.
After the corner my trainer said “Ummm… walk, just walk. I don’t even know what to say.”
Mr. K, who hadn’t said a word, said “I know what you say. You say get off and you’re done.”
“Yes, I think you should be done. That was just amazing. It gave me goose bumps and my eyes are tearing up.” My trainer added.
I got all choked up and said “Isn’t this horse wonderful??!!”
My trainer said “Yes he is. That was so nice, I can’t even tell you. It was a better lengthening than many very nice horses in this area can do.”
Mr. K said “That was a 9. Easily any judge around here would give it a 9. Very nice.”
My trainer said “Yep, I’d give that a nine. He didn’t run, and he’s one of the few Arabs that I’ve seen that doesn’t get wide behind when they try to do that. Well done.”
Of course, I’m over the moon about it. We have another lesson on Thursday. I’ll try and get video.
And here’s the thing. While that was a SUPER lengthening, it’s not as big as he can go. Cause I’ve felt him go bigger, and it’s fantastic.
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