Friday, June 21, 2019

The Second level horse

Discussing our show with Trainer Z and my clinic with Vern Batchelder brought something into focus that I didn't really expect:  Moving up was a big deal for Theo as well.

I usually hear about how big of a leap it is for riders to move from First to Second.  Many riders decide to stay at First because the leap looks too big.  But I don't usually hear about that leap from the perspective of the horse.  It's a big leap for them, too.  The power expected is different, the precision is different, the suppleness is different.  Theo has demonstrated quite nicely how much of a change can happen when you teach a horse how to think forward,  lift their shoulders, and then build up the muscles necessary.
He's always been prone to explosions when heading right.  He's hollow right and likes to fly out that left shoulder so heading right gives him that opportunity, especially when I'm prepping to canter.  We had a lid on it and had a string of shows with no problems since I could prevent it by basically not powering up his hind end.  You don't have to power up for working gaits.  You absolutely do need that power to collect.  I've had to let some of Theo's inner stud out to make the collection possible.  The explosion problem is back with a gusto.  Trainer Z shrugged and said welcome to Second level.

She wasn't the only one that said that.  Vern also said that our sudden submission issues were expected at this point in his training.  I've turned up the pressure while encouraging him to be a big, powerful pony.  There are going to be moments where we get it wrong and with all that power, wrong may include some dramatics.

Why don't any of the books or magazines discuss this part of moving up the levels?  Trainer Z did warn me that I might see an outbreak of naughty behavior as we jazzed him up, but I thought that was just Theo.  I didn't think it was a common thing across horses moving up to this stage in their training.  As I ask around, I'm finding that many people have outbreaks of trouble at this level.  Second is the start of Big Boy dressage and it's a bit of a learning curve to manage all that positive tension so it doesn't flip over to negative.

So I guess the misbehavior is a good sign if we want to keep going?  Because we now have the energy and enthusiasm?  But I could do with a bit less exuberance in our tests.


  1. That illustration sums it up perfectly!

  2. haha something similar happened to me in jumping with Ramone, if I added power but kept him a little crooked (where he wanted to be anyway) it was super manageable. Once I got him straight though it was very big, and prone to bucking. lol