Saturday, November 4, 2017

Flat work progression and something exciting

The face of a very good boy
Big things are cooking up over in Scoutland as we plug away at getting Scout fit again. Namely, we've stopped just hacking about with no real plan and I've started expecting and asking for more "real" work under saddle in preparation for our very first show this Sunday!!! We've entered a local dressage schooling show just to get Scout's feet wet with the show atmosphere in a safe and comfortable environment. It's a farm he's been to a few times and he seems quite nonchalant there, so I think I can up the ante by exposing him to more activity pretty confidently. We've entered two dressage tests Intro A and Intro B, so as long as he can stay in the ring I think we'll make it through. That said, I haven't ridden in a dressage test in a VERY long time, so I've got my work cut out for me in terms of remembering my tests and figuring out where the letters are!!! So while writing and reading about flat work progression isn't the most exciting thing, I do have lots of photos to help ease the reader throughout this post.

I start each of my rides with lots of work at the walk. This has really been paying off even if it's excruciatingly boring. But there's plenty to do at the walk, so I generally work on getting him to engage his hind end with lots of transitions from walk to halt, serpentines and circling in and out. He still wants to get hollow in the upward movement when I ask him to stay connected, but each ride the time he spends resisting gets shorter, so we'll call that a win. He's also starting to have some nice lightbulb moments in the connection where he'll lift his back and drop his head when I put my leg on.

Adding some poles on the ground helps keep things interesting.
At the trot the name of the game for us is TRANSITIONS. He has to learn to step underneath himself and I have to stop letting him pull my reins away an inch at a time. Trying to ride a strung out, on-the-forehand baby giant is not fun, in fact, it's exhausting. He's been rewarding me with some very nice trot work, but we're still working on straightness and real bend (he's very good at faking it). When I lift my shoulders up and keep my reins shorter, I'm able to ride his hind legs much more effectively and ultimately keep him up in front of me.

I like his frame here, though he's slightly braced against me

Tracking up nicely

He's getting a touch deep here, but it makes me feel very excited about our future
Our canter work is a serious work-in-progress. He lost a ton of condition from being on stall rest and the transition to full work has been a slow one. Whereas when I first got him I could get on and canter him around on a loose rein, he's actually not coordinated enough for me to fully trust him to do that without my support. And by support I mean asking him to bring the canter together a bit more and engage his back, which makes his canter feel very powerful.

Exhibit A (this will be amazing XC!!!!)
Right now, it takes a lot of half-halting and core work to keep him from getting strung out. What I'm feeling under saddle looks very differently in video (where he looks light and very rideable). But what I do like though is that I can see a definitive change in is gait when I ask for the half-halt, and he's able to hold a nice light canter for a few strides at a time before needing a little more support.

Starting strung out

Core = engaged. Lifting the canter.

A lighter canter stride to sit
So we're progressing, which I suppose is all you can hope for with babies. His transitions upward are less exciting and his downward transitions are feeling less discombobulated. He's giving more and bracing less. We had a few major lightbulb moments since these photos were taken, and I think I've got some new tools to help unlock true bend (at least at the walk and the trot). I hope it pays off for our little show!

Wish us luck tomorrow:)


  1. good luck! i actually really like Intro B a lot - for all of charlie's first outings i just rode that test again and again and again. Intro A is good too tho, esp for a tense horse who might have issues with the first halt. anyway Scout looks great, i love how focused he looks as he explores new ways of carrying and holding himself!

    1. Thanks! I like Intro B a lot too, the movements flow quite well. I'm excited about our future!

  2. Looking good! Hope tomorrow is fabulous.

    PS that is not the surprise i was looking for :p

  3. Best of luck! I love reading this because we're going through a lot of the same thing

    1. I love following blogs that are in the same sort of place -- solidarity is everything!

  4. Loving the progress, great job scout and Niamh!