After a roller-coaster Monday, I was really looking forward to the quiet concentration of Dressage work. Brego was rested and in a good mood. His legs felt nice and tight after Saturday's cross country, so I tacked him up and did our usual in hand work to reengage his brain.
I try to start each session by just asking him to "dance" with me. He must walk with energy and halt solidly with me at his head, striking off again at command. No lazing about or dragging around. Then I ask for leg yield away in hand, lightly using my whip as the leg aid. Then we work on shoulder in around me, as if I am the pillar. This kind of work gets Brego thinking about me, about his balance, and stretches him laterally before I even get in the saddle.
Once aboard, I moved him off at the walk and just felt with my seat. He felt good, even, maybe a bit behind. I worked on adjusting him in the walk, moving him forward with a light calf aid, slowing his cadence with my seat and abs. I love him at the walk, he is so light, like I am balancing on a ball. He can move in any direction with very slight aids.
It's the trot where he stiffens and sets himself in cruise control. Before we got to the trot today, I wanted to make sure he really understood bending around my inside leg. I worked on shoulder in, setting up with a volte. He is so smart, picked up right where we left off last time we rode dressage. Then I worked on travers. We have not schooled it much, so we struggled to maintain the bend. But I got a few good steps each way. Progress, not perfection.
At the trot, he started very stiff and I went back to asking for bend with inside leg, raising my inside hand when he would brace around he corners. He started to soften down, really lovely. I got some nice shoulder in at the trot both directions.
Then a great disturbance occurred outside the arena. Some horses were running and calling and Brego could hear them but not see them. He stiffened and started calling back. I was working alone, and this is about the time that Brego, in his playful youth, would have taken off bucking and storming around trying to get involved in the ruckus. I did not want to ask Brego to halt for fear of him being naughty, so I pushed him into a very big trot and we worked on figure eights. I changed rein often, through his calling and rubber necking, trying desperately to get his brain back on me and not on the running heard.
Finally the noise abated and Brego was high, but soft. He had a little extra spring, but he let go of the stiffness in his neck. This was the first ride in a long time where I felt like he was softer after the trot work than before.
I did a little canter work, 20 m circles where I asked for the transition and then sat quiet and balanced. Without my constant nagging, he would break to a trot or start four beating. So I would ask again and then leave him alone. He needs to be self propelled in the canter, even on a 20 m circle. He was perfect to the right, and we were marginal to the left. I found that to the left, I would weight my right seat bone. Poor guy. When I corrected my balance, he was equally nice to the left.
I asked for a trot transition after the canter work and he had the most lovely and forward trot. He then stretched down into contact, a very rare thing. So much progress.
So all in all, nothing earth shattering, nothing miraculous. Just a good solid, feeling ride where we both came out feeling better for the work. Quiet progress = a perfect ride.
I will try to get pictures or video soon.