Almost two hours later, I had this.
It looks really unimpressive in pictures, but that's my painstakingly measured out large arena. The wind was crazy so I used jump standards to mark the letters. My cones kept getting blown away. It was windy enough that I had some poles rolling in the wind, which added a certain level of difficulty. No one expects to have the rail suddenly move.
The large arena is a whole heck of a lot bigger than I thought. Which made all of the geometry actually, you know, work. The serpentine with simple changes in Second 2? Totally possible when you've got room for three 20 meter circles. My turns on the haunches also fit. Those freaking corners still feel tight, but that's more about me trying to use them for the first time. I need every inch I can get. I didn't know I'd been using a wrong size arena to practice. I guess that explains some of my accuracy problems.
Trainer Z visited today so we got to put the large arena to use. First we did some work on his travers, keeping the forward. Start with a little travers, then have his strides get bigger while staying in the travers, then finish up with a trot lengthen. It's started to reprogram his brain so that he doesn't slow in his laterals. I'm also working on his leg yields with the same idea. Big trot, go sideways, big trot. He's starting to keep the power and suspension in his laterals, but it's got a long ways to go.
We also ran through Second 1 to practice my ring craft. Because I have none. It's a sad statement but true. I've made it this far with zero ring craft and half the time, I'm learning my test just before I ride it in competition. I'm discovering that's a bad idea if you want to score well.
I have to start all of the movements earlier then I think because Theo is no thoroughbred. He takes a second to react. If I start at the letter, I'm too late. I need to take a breath and reset his frame on some specific movements since these new, tougher tests make him get overly short. The 10m canter circle was a key one since it comes after the lengthening. He is good at coming back from the lengthen, but he tends to over do it and we end up with a very short, four beat canter until I can decompress him. I can use the circle to really push him forward and reset my canter.
I HATE the canter lengthen on Theo. He is so prone to overreacting. There were some box jump standards on their side next to the ring. I asked for the lengthen, he spotted them, then ripped a buck big enough to make Trainer Z go white and ask if I was okay. All four off the floor by several feet. It's progress that he didn't teleport anywhere or take off or keep bucking, but it did make a mess of the lengthen since I had to get my stirrups back. On the next attempt, I was riding hard so he didn't buck, but he did change leads so he could better look at them. Ugggh, using flying changes against me! I know I'm going to get nailed for 'tentative' or 'gradual' canter lengthens at the start of the season, but I'll take that over the dramatic bucks and carrying on he likes to throw when he's feeling looky or big.
Of course Trainer Z followed it up with 'no kidding he picked up a change easily if he can jump like that'. Well, yeah, getting off the floor isn't hard for him, never has been. Pony has a big jump in him. She also got excited when Theo showed off the way he does his down transitions now, dropping his butt and taking the weight back is the quickest way to get to halt. Halt = cookies. Apparently that's a good sign for piaffe. Not that he's going to go grand prix, but I would love to at least experience the process. And she is dead set on him getting a canter pirouette since he is apparently built for it.
Doing shoulder in like a big boy. We're all matchy matchy in lavender, but I don't know what my right hand is doing. WTF right hand.
On the downside, our medium gaits are . . . challenging. That trot is freaking uncomfortable to ride and not at all impressive. He's correct, but he just isn't built to do it from a mechanical perspective. It's not big, it's not easy, and it's hell to sit. Like pro rider finds it unpleasant and hard to sit. So we'll have to rake in the marks for the transitions and technical movements.
My big challenge right now is to multitask in my test. I need to manage Theo's balance more carefully since I'm asking him for a lot more, but at the same time, the test is longer and more complicated. You get less breaks (except the stupid trot around the ring move in Second 1, wtf). Theo is currently getting very up in the contact as the test rolls by and I have to manage him so he comes back down and relaxes over his topline so his gaits don't get dumb. While remembering where my next movement is. And keeping my hands from being dumb. Our tests have a lot of dumb currently.
Second Level is truly the great abyss of dressage, but I'm thrilled to be here. Which is an odd statement. I'm thrilled that my problem is keeping the forward in my 10m canter circle, keeping the angle steady in my shoulder in, going with the medium trot. After all these years, having these problems is freaking delightful.