Tonight I tacked Tucker up (we switched bits to a plain Dr. Bristol, but at least I get to use my flash to show for once) and took him out to the dressage arena on the farm, just after the sun had set, and the moon was just starting to glow but the sky was a really pretty steel blue. Once I got done sighing over how beautiful an evening it was, and how lucky I was to be out on this lovely horse enjoying it (and how glad I was that I dragged my butt out there after work tonight), we got down to business. It was actually pretty dark by the time we were done, but Tucker is used to late night rides and crack of dawn warmups, so he didn't mind a bit.
I haven't practiced the whole test more than twice before tonight, because I know Tucker, and I know that he memorizes things very, very quickly. He almost always lands his leads at the horse show once he's jumped the course once, because he knows which way we're going next, and will always pick up his canter before you ask on the opening circle. He also anticipates lead changes when you canter across the diagonal (sometimes rather dramatically), starts leg yielding back to the rail the second you finish your leg yield to the quarterline, and comes back to a halt whenever my phone rings. He's a smart cookie.
Tonight I thought I'd be good doing the test once at the walk, once at the trot, and then twice more all the way through with all the transitions etc. By the last time through, he totally had it memorized. Whoops. The biggest problem I think I'm going to have tomorrow is making sure to keep him in the gate we are in until we get to the spot where we are supposed to transition, since he clearly thinks he knows everything there is to know about dressage already. Such an over-achiever.
In all seriousness, there are a few things we needed to work on. For starters, the cavaletti marking the ends of the ring are not to be jumped. There is a cavaletti placed, for example, at C, marking the end of the ring. Trotting up the center line, we are headed right for it, and someone had trouble understanding why he was being turned away from it at the last second. We seem to have conquered this issue after the first few moments of confusion, however. An easy mistake, I suppose.
We've been practicing 20-meter circles at the trot and canter, and I think I have the size and shape down. We have to work on our usual issues: to the right, he overbends and brings his haunches too far in, and to the left, he pops his right shoulder and grabs the inside rein (this also goes back to me sitting straight, keeping my right arm under control, and following with my left shoulder). Also, I noticed that when we turn the corner from short side to long side, he had a tendency to swing his hips to the outside, so I have to remember to ride him off my outside aids in the corners.
The squiggly thingies went well, as far as I could tell, and the change of direction across the diagonal with the canter-trot transition, we nailed just about every time (at least, I think we did). So it'll be interesting to see how we score on those parts. The free walk and stretchy trot felt good to me, but I'm curious to know if we are doing it right. The hardest part of the free walk is getting him to keep walking (and not start trotting) when I shorten my reins back up, and the trickiest part of the stretchy trot is getting him to keep trotting when I shorten my reins back up, since he thinks that stretching down at the trot at the end of the ride means that he's done. I'm glad we practiced this tonight... things I wouldn't have thought of.
The hardest part of the test for us, from what I can tell, is the last turn, down the longside, and then up the center line. We overshot it about three times in a row before we got it right. I have a feeling my left shoulder is the culprit there, so I need to remember to turn with the horse. The left turn at the start of the test, from the center line to the rail, was much easier, but that's an easier turn for me in terms of my own straightness. Also, the last turn at the end of the test, he's a little more tired than the first turn at the start of the test.
Once we were done I got all our tack clean, tidied Tucker up a little, and got everything set so I can show up right after work and get going. I'm excited for tomorrow, looking forward to another set of eyes and a different perspective on my horse. Hopefully he will behave himself and not do anything too embarrassing! If he does, don't worry... it will just be fodder for another post tagged "humor."
Wish us luck!