Let’s start at the very beginning (it’s a very good place to start…) of the week – last week that is! Monday it was time to trailer Val over to the lovely Applewood for our “boot camp” with the Boss. After a very nice pull Val got all settled in while I went to work helping Jason get the horses he was working ready. At the very end we had our ride on Val, and by we I mean that I hoped on for 10 minutes and warmed him up and then Jason went to work.
Let me preface this by saying I am not an advocate of draw reins because most of the time they are in the hands of someone inexperienced, emotional, or both. We did however utilize them on Val during the week of training to help encourage him to come down and accept the contact and the riding. He is just too big and can rip you out of the tack with a moments notice. He is also too strong to use steady, progressive aids and usually that results in you having to be quicker with them and still your arm ends up coming out of the socket. He is just too much sometimes and so the draw reins were employed. We used them as a “running martingale” – when he was correct and not flipping his head up then there was no pressure but when he started to evade there was a little more leverage so that neither the Boss nor I had our position compromised so that the riding and aids could still be correct. Val was most certainly not a big fan, but they really did their job very well. That being said if you are reading this, please please please do not go out tomorrow thinking that Stephanie said it was okay to put draw reins on your horse and crank him in. That riding is not okay! Don’t do it and save me from worrying about you all okay? I had an experienced trainer supervising the ride and at no time did we pull his head in or force him down with brute strength.
Tuesday was more of the same basic correct gait work establishing bend and the throughness in the walk so that the walk pirouettes were active and connected which helped lead to the improvement of the half pass at the same time. My favorite exercise I picked up is actually to take a steep active, marching half pass at the walk across the arena, straighten at the quarter line, shoulder-in feeling, and then into the walk pirouette to repeat again. This is a wonderful tool for both me and Val to get the right feeling in the work for the trot and canter without things getting messy and coming at you too quick. I don’t ride the walk often enough at home and so I have been loving this exercise since we have been back!
Wednesday we rode the Team Test after warming up, going over what the goal for warm up on him is and how to get to that happy place. He ran a very nice test with a few bumps that I marked to fix for the show on the weekend.
Thursday we rode Val twice. First I hopped on to warm him up and then Jason got on to do a bit more of putting Val back into his place. I could watch him ride my horse all day long – it is always such a treat when he gets on. Then I was privileged enough to get to ride one of Jason’s other rides for the day, Ami. Can I just tell you I have never felt more belittled by a horse in my life! I get on and the stirrups are way too long; I am reaaaaching for them. The answer: oh just drop them and cross them in front of the saddle. I have never been on this horse in my life! And then I cannot even get the big guy to even go around a twenty meter circle, or put his head down and come on the bit, or anything. And my position needs so much work – the Boss constantly yelled at me for it. These are the times I wish that I had mirrors so that I could really tell what I look like and so that I could make corrections since I usually don’t have someone on the ground. For Val’s second ride we ran through the Individual Test which ended with the rain coming in and us getting back to the barn before the heavens opened up. And then a nice trailer ride back in the rain only to load it back up for pulling to the show the next day.
All in all however boot camp was amazing. It made me so motivated and excited to get up and ride every day. It made we want to be better and better and know so much more than I do. The biggest thing I took away was that I need to be a better rider and not give up. Val has got to give me 110% everyday and then I need to push and motivate him to dig down and give me more. I have to be strong, consistent, and always ride for a 10 because a 6 is not good enough for the caliber of horse I have. I need to push both him and me because there is no reason we cannot do this. I have to ride everyday like Jason is watching and ask more out of myself and demand more out of myself. We have a war to fight, and so now is the time to not give up because there is only one door for us to go through – to win.
Friday we pulled to the show and I rode my schooling ride in the chaos that is the Charles Walker Arena. I don’t think I have ever ridden in a dressage arena with five other people – and somehow both me and Val managed to school through our movements and make it out alive! A lot of nice horses from some high-end barns in our area but Val is great and gives me the security that I cannot be outclassed on him.
Saturday was one of the best rides I have had in a show arena on him to date. We went in and rode the Team test after our warm up per the Bosses instructions and everything felt fantastic! We ended up with a pretty good score – nothing I would get mad at and points higher than at Aiken. Unfortunately, only one 8 made an appearance although the walk pirouette’s were 6’s and 7’s, a far cry from the 3’s and 4’s in Aiken. He is just getting more solid every time we go to show the tests and I love it!
Sunday we had another good ride although unfortunately the scores were not as high as the previous day. I felt like I rode everything I could out of him and there was no major mistakes anywhere in the test but it wasn’t enough to keep both the judge at C and the judge at B in the same point range. I was ultimately disappointed in the scores and the comments from one of the ladies but it wasn’t a score horrible enough to tank my average and so at that I could at least breathe a sigh of relief. Not what I wanted, and not what I was expecting, but I will take it and try to polish even further.
So now the best part – pictures: