Getting serious about small rings

There is nothing like a show to motivate you into working harder. In my case it is a bit to late for that but the dressage test we did at Loch Moy gave me a bit of a wake up call. At the farm I lease we have a huge huge grass field/ring where all the jumps are. I tend to ride there all the time or in one of the horse pastures if we are not out on the trails. We are lucky to have tons of trails right off the farm even if we live in the flat State of Delaware where hills don’t exist. I like riding in the open and when in my big grass ring I don’t focus on the size of circles we are doing or making everything precise. Wow, that became apparent when I felt like our steering was way crazy at the show. Of course a green horse who is looking at the PVC dressage ring and the judges stand with huge eyes was a factor in our lack of precision but we needed to buckle down.

At the barn we renovated the small round pen into a ring the size of a small dressage arena but it is slightly smaller in width because we ran out of space. There is a mix of stone dust and sand footing in there and I was working all the horses in there when I had my broken wrist and I first returned to riding and wanted to make sure they didn’t buck me off 🙂 You ride in this ring and all your faults become front and center. Who knew 20 m canter circles could be so hard..more like 18 m in my ring so even harder!

I need to drag the ring since we now have grass and weeds growing in there but I took the boys out there last night anyway. Dixie was looking around and the cats running in and out of the wood provided some extra excitement. I worked for ten minutes at the walk suppling him both sides and doing neck stretches. He is much stiffer on that right side but I wanted to hold that rein at the halt and have him yield to it. He is such a smart boy and figures it all out so quickly. We did leg yields all over the ring at the walk and shoulder fore. Some turn on the forehand in the corners. He was so soft in my hand and stretching down. He is fussy about me using my leg to move him over when going right. If I push his body left he wants to resist and pull but I need to maintain my feel no matter what he does.

We moved onto the trot and to the right it felt very unbalanced. The turns come up fast in this small ring so any time he wasn’t balanced enough and I was not accurate with my half halt we did not have any bend around. I worked on setting each turn up with a half halt and asking him to slightly yield out. He picked that up quickly. When I ask him to move over he wants to rush and lose his balance confusing leg with forward. I either transition down or apply another half halt.

I started working on serpentines and figure eights through the ring really focusing on my position and making sure to be perfectly straight and tall with my shoulders. Don’t lean in the turns and watch that I don’t let him pull me out of my positon. If he loses his balance and falls on the forehand don’t follow with my body but half halt and reestablish the proper rhythm in the trot.

Our canter to the right felt so good. He has a lovely canter and I enjoy knowing where that canter once started. Cantering our 18m circles is darn difficult so we would canter a circle and then go down the long side. This revealed some other issues basically showing we looked drunk. We would come out of the circle and then aim straight and he would fall all over the place. I really had to keep that outside rein and support with the inside leg. Shoulder needed to be tall and elbows bent.

He has gotten excellent with his right lead now and although we cantered our 18m circles right they were not all that balanced. I think I am pleased anyway because truthfully this is way hard for him and we got a much better canter even when he was working on finding his balance.

I know I say it all the time but I really love this horse. He tries so hard for me and he has such a great work ethic. No matter what happens he never gets upset and he doesn’t overreact. I make sure to take frequent breaks and praise him because I know how hard the work is. He has such a worried eye on him which makes me laugh because he does silly things. He acts all scared and then you tell him it’s okay and he believes you. There is something about that in a horse that makes me feel like we are partners.

Today we will work on a little jumping and then take a hack afterwards.

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