|Pictured: All of us looking for 4th level. Not pictured: Anyone finding it.|
USEF states the purpose of Fourth Level is: "To confirm that the horse demonstrates correct basics, and has developed sufficient suppleness, impulsion and throughness to perform the Fourth Level tests which have a medium degree of difficulty. The horse remains reliably on the bit, showing a clear uphill balance and lightness as a result of improved engagement and collection. The movements are performed with greater straightness, energy and cadence than at Third Level."
Let's break that last bit down:
1. Horse remains reliably on the bit.
|Exhibit A. Horse on bit.|
2. Horse shows a clear uphill balance and lightness as a result of improved engagement and collection.
This is a bit harder for me to see. With Pig being a thoroughbred, uphill tendency tends to look a bit different in him than the fancy warmbloods I'm used to seeing. Plus, his tendency is to travel fairly earthbound through his shoulders. That said, I think we have some improvement to our basic gaits.
|Our average trot right now.|
|Status of the canter, more questionable.|
|Gait quality = some improvement shown|
Also, that walk photo on the right. Wtf horse. Did you forget that leg was attached? Jesus.
Here we are making big strides. Last fall our changes were on the aids (finally) but were wildly out of control and usually late behind. Now, our single changes look a lot more like this:
|Can I get a HELL YES? Seriously. Can I?|
Other movements are coming along, too. Notably the half pass where we are working to increase the bend (and therefore the engagement).
|Needs more bend, gets more bend. That left ribcage is quite the stubborn thing. But, NBD. We're fixin' problems like a boss.|
Now, as we look specifically at the 4-1 test, there are a few new movements for the test: collected walk; very collected canter; walk pirouettes; multiple flying changes on diagonal.
|Accurate representation of our exact reaction to those movements.|
The very collected canter, developing into a working pirouette by the end of the the level, is something we've really started to hit hard.
|Moar sit now, plz.|
Right now the biggest issue is keeping his power up when we finally get the hip to drop. I'm paying close attention to my reins, as any pulling will just STOP his hind legs in their tracks. Still, it's a careful balance. I find myself using haunches-in on a circle to help develop the feel, ala a Jeremy Steinberg clinic tip.
|Sitty, sitty, spinny, spinny|
Finally, we get to the truly nightmare-inspiring addition: multiple flying changes on diagonal. As a single change was a major struggle until recently and I am no wizard at teaching or riding changes, it makes sense why this addition intimidates me. I don't think I'm alone, either. Tempi changes take a lot of organization, relaxation, and timing to pull off. I think everyone moving up to 4th feels like they could use a lot more of all of those skills.
Still, I've been pretty confident in our ability to at least get three changes across the diagonal. (Noticeably much less confident about our ability to do them cleanly or not careen through the wall of the arena at the end, though) The development of relaxed single changes has given me a lot more confidence in this, and I've started adding multiple changes into a few of our rides. Just to test, you know.
|Hold your applause, please. You'll spook the horse. Also, yes. I know that second change was really late. See above about fixing that one.|
(*Note: All these clips are from days I would call "not our best" and "pretty stiff and resistant". Yeah, I know. What is this madness?!)
|Too bad they don't offer a pas de deux with dogs in USEF. We'd nail that.|
What upcoming challenges are keeping you up at night? Do we have any in common?