Monday, July 3, 2023

Learning to fly

 It seems that the flying change has become my theme or my nemesis.  I'm not sure which.  I write about it all the time as I get closer and then I fall back.  It's this weird, ephemeral thing that low level dressage riders like myself see as a sort of witchcraft.  That's what the big kid dressage riders do, not us.  Somehow, over all of the years and false starts, it's remained out of grasp.  

Except it's actually within grasp now.  Sort of.  Or as was recently said, it was in my power the whole time, I just had to click my heels three times.  Theo's right to left change is completely good, confirmed, takes relatively minimal set up.  He's happy to do it and it's pretty much always clean.  He prefers his left lead so these days, keeping him from changing is more work than asking for the change.  The left to right change is good about 50% of the time.  It's the weirdest thing, Theo really seems to struggle with figuring out how to get all four feet moved through the change from left to right.  We've seen every variation under the sun.  In my last lesson, Trainer Z tried to explain what he did and came up with 'I think he just did one tempis up front and moonwalked behind'.  Neither of us knew horses could moonwalk.  My horse is here to educate us all.

One of our better iterations of mistakes, a little weird up front but not bad.  That's Pam Goodrich  coaching us (love her, there will probably be more clips)

Right now, we are using a ground pole and sugar cubes to help Theo get that maneuver locked in.  Minus the moonwalk, of course.  He has a lovely, clean, uphill change when he mentally computes what it is that he's supposed to do.  These days he knows it's coming, it's just a matter of making it physically make sense for him.  And making it so rewarding that he wants to get it right.  I'm going through a lot of sugar cubes.  

This feels different because Theo is stronger, he knows what we want, and he really is trying.  I've also got enough iterations at this point that I feel like I know how to ask.  I have confidence when setting up and asking for the change.  In my last lesson I succeeded in waking up Big Boy Theo complete with some bucking, jigging, and leaping.  And it was fine.  Riding multiple times a week has finally kicked in and for a shining few moments I was old me.  We half passed from center line to the rail, set up despite Theo's surging and bouncing, and then had a big beautiful change from left to right.  I lost both stirrups but was too busy petting and fussing to care.  I'd stuffed him full of sugar before I picked up my stirrups.

We have a plan for the Third Level debut.  I barely dare to type it after so many years but with one change locked down and the other looking to be well on it's way even when it's me and not Trainer Z in the saddle, an October debut feels comfortable.  Let's face it, if I wait for it to be perfect I will never do it.  Having one change very confident and the other 50% awesome and 50% 'creative' is not the worst thing a judge will see at Third 1.  He knows what he needs to do and gives it the good old college try, he simply screws up the footwork sometimes.  His half pass is lovely in both trot and canter, I'll be struggling to keep him from going sideways too fast.  His extended will get us a laugh and a 5 but time isn't going to change that.  Shoulder in to renvers he can do in his sleep so we may just skip to Third 2 in order to get that nice set up for the change.  But after so many years of fussing and thinking and dreaming, we're setting a date.  October 2023, we're going to start trying for those last two scores for my Bronze.


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