First Tries at Second Level

Saturday I tried running through Second Level Test 1 in its entirety for the first time. The outdoor ring was finally thawed, though a huge puddle and high winds made the whole place spookier than a show facility to Guinness. All the horses were up in arms that day, and playing hard.

I didn't expect much.

What I got from my horse, though, was an amazing effort. Even though very spooked by the wind in the trees across the street, he did his best to hold his concentration. He pushed hard to give me the best movement he could, and stayed a loose as I could expect for the weather transitions. He never even ground his teeth. Not once.

I wish I had that attempt on video.

But, the camera was knocked over by the wind and all I have is a 20 minute video of the footing. So ... oops. Luckily, Sunday the barn was hopping with people and one lovely woman was willing to stand out in the cold wind and take a few videos of test run throughs. Barn people are seriously the best.

Unfortunately, Guinness felt tired. He was constantly falling behind my leg, and felt very stiff. I'm sure battling the mud in turnout, the weather shifts, and a hard ride the day before didn't help. Sundays are long days for us, so I didn't ask him for much beyond running through the test twice. Test video below --

Things I learned from running through this test? 

  • Our halts are getting pretty freaking awesome.
  • Medium trots are on track for good development. I really need to work on letting my legs drape down and sinking deeper into my seat to follow the movement. Until I wrangle that, I can't really ask Guinness for more without getting a break. Add that to the "Needs Improvement" list.
  • Ride an accurate medium trot diagonal. I tend to cut these a little short. It ends at the letter, not halfway between two letters. Derp.
  • Screw canter --> walk and walk --> canter. Seriously. Screw that transition. It also goes on the "Needs Improvement" list. Ugh.
  • Learn to ride an accurate counter canter serpentine. I don't know where I'm going, and it's pretty obvious that I'm lost out there. On the plus side? The counter canter is still pretty okay, despite not having schooled it for months. Might want to dust some cobwebs off this soon to avoid the dreaded "counter canter motorcycle."
  • Go for broke in the medium canter. Right now it feels awesome, but isn't reading that way. I need to make sure I get more out of this movement, because we're good and brave in it.
  • This test's Brain Fart Moment is going to be right before the second counter canter serpentine. I tend to want to cross the diagonal to change lead. I'm going to have to remember to stay focused here and not lose easy points. (I love getting these moments identified early!)
  • Big point? Half halts. I use them all the time while schooling, and they are there. I have to remember to sit up and ride them during tests, or things stop feeling manageable and start spiraling out of control. Extra plus? Half halts force me to drape my legs and stop trying to crawl into the fetal position. Sit up! Half halt! Just do it!
Other than the above and the basic faults (slight chair seat/tense hip flexors, hands too low/inconsistent) I'm feeling pretty good about these tests. I think if the work continues as well as it has been (knock on some wood, seriously!), we can certainly be ready by our schooling show date of April 19th. 

What do you guys think? Pick me apart!


  1. I really thing improving Ramone's half halts would make my life a bit easier lol.

    1. It's amazing how half halts seem to be the key to making everything better. :)

  2. Sounds like you've isolated plenty of manageable goals for yourselves. Sorry can't watch vid on my phone, but am pretty sure you're miles ahead of my ride ability so I couldn't possibly comment even if I could watch the vid.

  3. You're far from where I'll ever be, so to me you look phenomenal! Its always so wonderful when our horses give us so much try in the hardest of circumstances!

    1. I love that sense of "try" in a horse, absolutely!


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