OK – y’all are NOT going to believe what Cotton and I did today!
(Pause while you guess)
We did dressage out in the XC field in his snaffle and he was awesome!! See, I told you you wouldn't believe me!
Lesley rode him for the first half of my dressage lesson yesterday. She had the usual “discussion” with him as she asked him to move into the connection. He was doing great by the time it was my turn. Afterwards she suggested I work him in dressage again today so we could benefit from her work on him that day. I really didn’t want to… dressage is just such a snoozer - I really want to focus on jumping - but then I remembered that I had come to the conclusion from reading her articles that our flat work was going to be the key to our successful jumping so I decided to obey my instructor and torture myself and my horse with another session on the flat.
It was anything but torture! After a long walk warm up I shortened the reins just enough to have contact on a long rein. He accepted that without a squabble and went round for me just from a slight seat aid – just like he has done so willingly for me in his bubble bit! I kept him connected and round on the longer rein as we did some walk/halts and even some trotting. Then I shortened the reins and put him to work – he moved right into the connection, no problem! I was able to slow his trot with my seat, sit and walk without any resistance.
Surely this was too good to be true – I was sure I was doing something wrong or else he would be arguing with me - I probably wasn’t asking very much of him - if Lesley were there I’m sure she would have had a lot to say. But it all seemed so great to me!
I decided to test my success by taking him out to the XC field. Being out there would make whatever I was doing wrong a lot more obvious. I was prepared for his head to pop up, his back to hollow and for him to get strong. I was sitting up as tall as I could and my hands were on the ready to widen in order to maintain the connection when his periscope went up.
None of that happened! We did circles and figure eights all around that field and he was great! I was simply amazed.
I decided to test him again. After an amazing transition to walk I let him have a loose rein as we headed toward the far end of the XC field. I was now ready for him to fuss about having to go back on the aids after he’d had a little break – and we would be heading toward the barn. Once again, I took up the slack and asked for roundness on a long rein. No argument! I shortened the reins and trotted all around – no problem. I did that whole test one more time after we were back to the “dressage ring” area – again, he was a complete angel.
Lesley has figured out after riding him these few times that he really is very afraid of contact on his mouth. She has stressed the importance of starting him on a long rein, allowing him to accept the contact there before asking for more. Then, when he is working, it is so important to relax the inside rein to reward him every time he reaches into the bit and to check for self-carriage. I have had to learn to keep my core engaged while I do that, however, or else I throw away the connection.
As I drove away from the barn I thanked God, once again, for Lesley!