Klein and I have had some enlightening dressage lessons in the past couple months. In just a few lessons Klein and I have brought our energy up and our scores down. We have also finally, FINALLY cemented lengthenings into Klein's arsenal. She is even to the point now where she'll just do them for funsies during trot sets. I actually need to get her some bell boots because for lengthenings I am now hearing her kick herself she is coming so far under herself to push. What did we do? We fixed ME. We had to adjust my posting a bit and get some exaggerated movement from Klein to get the point across where the light bulb went off that it is that big movement that we want.
Before, Klein had them but we weren't showing enough difference. Normally at some point in our warm up I will put her on a loose rein and have her give me as BIG of a trot as she can (Lainey taught me this). This way she gets what it feels like and knows she is perfectly capable of it. Sometimes you have to show them they CAN and then it clicks. Being a fitness professional prior to my current career taught me that sometimes you just have to show people they can do something. Once they know that they actually do have the ability to do it, they have the confidence and/or understanding to continue it. I think horses are the same.
Now there is a very distinct feel to these lengthenings. This is also how I know she's doing them on trot sets for fun, she shifts into a completely different gear and there is a very different feel, and I'll hear her kick herself. I feel like I talk about lengthenings a lot on here, but it has been something that has been a struggle for us, but we finally consistently and correctly have them.
Exhibit A. The pic is not the clearest but, she is completely off the ground in this pic.
I've also moved her into her loose ring french link snaffle for dressage. She is going so well in it I forget that's even what she's in. I have went back and forth between her Boucher and this but this will be staying until further notice. We have competed in several shows with it now and she's been great. My instructor fixed my hands as well. My hands were creeping back on me for no good reason. Not anymore.
Our energy and engagement. We can get in the 20's at Novice and Training but doing the Prelim dressage test requires your energy to come up to a new level, and we just weren't bringing it up to the appropriate level. After one show where we got a 37 and some comments about lack of energy my instructor said "show me what canter you rode in that test" since she wasn't there and I had no video. I showed her the canter I rode, which I thought was fine, but my instructor was instantly like "Oh, yeah, ok, I see why you got that comment." She had me bring Klein up to what felt like a bit too fast for a dressage canter but she said, no THIS is what you need to be feeling. Ok, problem solved. The problem was, I didn't have that person on the ground to tell me "yeah you think that feels correct, but its not" and then get us into the canter we needed to be in and confirm, for me, that it was THAT feeling in THAT canter that we need to be in on that Prelim test.
Bring up the energy, promote more engagement, and here she is stepping into her hoof print.
Two weeks from that lesson we did another Prelim CT and Training CT. Klein scored a 29.00 on her Prelim dressage test and a 29.05 on her Training dressage test. While this is unrecognized, and everyone knows you aren't judged as hard as a recognized show, this was at a very legit dressage facility. I felt like Klein was judged atleast up to DQ standards, and to get that score with them, I was happy with that. That show was also in the pouring rain. We warmed up in their indoor until 2 mins before our ride time. So not only did she improve her score, she did it in a down pour. Thankfully the weather cleared up and it was a gorgeous afternoon and the grass footing was fine to jump on.
Here she is scoring a 29.40 at a recognized event at Novice.
We also improved our lateral work. We got her really pushing through her leg yields. Prelim A has leg yields in it and you ride the entire test sitting except for the lengthenings which can be sitting or posting. I wasn't using my seat as much as I could to help her push through her leg yields. She now has a bounce to them that wasn't there before.
This is her tougher side, though I recently found that if I just put my leg on a couple inches further back on that side she responds better.
Stretching down on a hack. We've improved our stretching down and forward for the free walk as well. If we're just out for a lazy hack I'll go out in my dressage saddle and throw some dressage moves in along the way. This is a good way for me to throw something in that may be a challenge for her and then immediately she can go back into chill mode before overthinking it. I kind of sneak things in on her sometimes if she is struggling with something.
Lately we have been working on second level movements. One thing I love is that both of my mares teach me things that help me teach them. Moch teaches me things that I can use with Klein, and Klein teaches me things that I can use with Moch. Something Mochs made me more aware of is the connection on the outside rein with a half halt. Mochs has helped me refine it a bit and when Klein and I were working on Canter-Walk-Canters the other evening that refined half halt had Klein feeling like a accordion that is being compressed. She compressed and lifted her back with very little contact. It like she was hovering, it was an awesome feeling.
We have really made some improvements these past couple months. I'm proud of Klein and excited to continue this progress.