I had a clinician watch me run through me Second Level test and say 'you have it, you have all of the moves, you just need to practice the sequence and smooth out the test'.
I wanted to squeal like a little girl.
I watched my horse cart his beginner adult around in the same clinic, performing leg yield and counter canter while keeping a connection and flexion, letting her learn to sit the trot and how to lengthen the canter. She doesn't even know a counter canter is hard, he just did it. She stared at me, wondering why it was a Second Level movement.
I wanted to cry.
He's a school master. He's a Second Level horse. He has natural talent for collection and a perfectly acceptable (but not at all impressive) medium. He has a naturally uphill canter. A Grand Prix level dressage rider that doesn't know him at all described him as a soft, forgiving horse and just loved him. No, not a 70% horse, not talented or extravagant or any of that, but far more valuable. He's the horse the ammy adults want. He's the horse you can learn on, that will do it if you're close enough.
I learned to invite him up to the higher level frame and was shocked when he simply stepped into it while still licking and chewing. He tucked his butt, lifted, and met me half way as I worked on refining my understanding of collection. 'It's not about getting to Second Level, this is the frame that will take you to Third and beyond'.
Dressage ponyI'm in tears.
We did it. While I wasn't looking, while I was questioning everything, we managed to get there. I had no idea until someone simply expected it of us. He lifted, I cued, and he gave me a lovely collected trot and shoulder in while chewing away. Our first run through of the test was terrible because I was so tense. I was terrified of doing this test that seemed so impossible and out of my league while people where watching me. Once I remembered how to ride? We did it. We comfortably, reliably preformed. It wasn't scary or a stretch. It was just another test. What more could I ask for?
One of my friends at the barn said 'it's rough when you're still riding the horse from one level ago'. I was. I was riding First Level Theo. I now have Second Level Theo. When he announced he couldn't possibly go in the muddy corner at our western dressage schooling show (he slipped, to be fair), I reset him in the warm up ring. I brought him up to the new frame, tucked his butt, and took him back in. 75% and reserve champion for the day, up 9 percent in ten minutes.
It's crazy. I spent so long trying to get here, and here I am. I don't even know what to do with it. Aside from start figuring out who has the joy of putting his changes on this winter. For real, this time.