The one area I want to definitely improve this weekend is our comfort level and relaxation in the tests themselves. As a pair, Guinness and I tend to stress each other out during a test, usually ending in a argument somewhere and a really diminished level of quality during the ride. So what am I doing to try to improve this?
First of all, I've been incorporating a lot more quick transitions and changes of bend into our schooling rides, complete with moments of relaxation to keep the tension at bay for both of us. I've also been pressing Guinness to offer more "push" in his gaits and to stay in front of my leg. To help him with all of this, I've been pushing myself to keep my position very solid. I have to learn to sit upright (abs tight like I'm zipping up a pair of too-tight pants, and my chest pulled upward as if tied to the sky by a rope ... if visuals do it for you), allow him to bounce me a little, and stop pushing and absorbing by bowing my lower back. I also have to keep my contact solid, instead of throwing away it away in tough transitions (like the change of lead across the diagonal in 1st 3).
The other part of our relaxation training as been to ride the tests more often, and to try to video them when possible. As a kid, I always had it driven into my head that you never rode your whole test or your horse would learn to anticipate the movements and would blow everything. As I've ridden more in dressage, I've realizing what a load of crock that is. Of COURSE you need to ride your tests at home. Maybe not every day, and all the time, but you need to practice them and feel how the movements work with your horse.
So we've been practicing our tests. Unfortunately, the only video I have to offer you is one in which I did not review the test before I rode it. As anyone who knows me well can attest, my memory is completely destroyed. There was no way I was going to remember the fast paced First 3 after having last ridden it in May. Yet, I think I did pretty well to remember (I swapped the canter lengthen and one loop, and forgot to do the 2nd lengthen). I also mysteriously thought that C was A, and did my final practice salute with my butt to the "judge."
Oh well, don't judge me.
A few things I was really happy with in this video (despite the memory lapses)? The 10 meter circles were fairly well balanced. Yes, I could use more bend to the left, but the circle to the right and the movement into the leg yield left was one of the best we've had recently. It's the level of quality we are starting to get every ride, and I am very happy with it. Other nice moments? Our 15 meter canter circle at C (it's a little large, but the arena is also a little small), is beautifully balanced and the canter loop keeps a nice rhythm.
Things we need to work on? Leg yields -still a bane of our existence, the transition into the lengthen needs to be quicker and more relaxed, I need to sit up a lot more and shorten my reins (I was letting him get away with murder, and his head was starting to wag because of it), the change of lead through the trot gets blown about 75% of the time and it's 75% my fault - I need to get on that, and our accuracy could be much improved.
So, enough talking and on with the video. What do you guys think? It's kind of an embarrassing schooling moment to put out there, but the good moments were something I really wanted to share.