Once I got Remy comfortable in his new saddle, it took about a month for him to build the strength to feel “not so green” and to become more comfortable to ride. As he got stronger, he became more rhythmic in his trot, and he started to gain a steadier carriage through his body. He got to be more balanced turning corners and circles, bending around the turns instead of falling into them. He gradually found it easier to balance not just his own body, but mine as well, which made my job as a rider much easier because there became less and less random changes of balance for my body to compensate for. After about 4 weeks of basic trotting around, circles, figure 8’s and general strengthening and suppling, I felt like Remy was ready for more.
I started increasing the amount of cantering I was doing with him, and also started riding him outside, which is a harder workout for the horses because the footing is a little deeper than the indoor arena and the outdoor arena is on a very gentle incline. For a young horse like Remy, the I love the incline because it makes him really think about how he is using his body, and it teaches him to make adjustments and use his body differently to balance as the terrain changes. Remy handled it very well, and I think enjoyed it. I was thrilled the first time I rode him outside he was just as quiet and well-behaved as he is inside, he looked around a little and checked everything out, but didn’t get spooky or wound up about anything.
Besides increasing the level and intensity of flatwork he’s doing and starting to work him on the more difficult footing, I also popped him over a little cross rail! It was a lot of fun, and Remy got it right away. The cross rail was so tiny he just trotted over it a few times and it took some encouraging to get him to jump it, but I love how easy going he is and how well he takes to new things. He jumped the cross rail, cantered off, then stopped and stood for everyone to admire. He’s such a ham!
So now about 6 weeks since he’s been working full time, I finally get on him and feel like he’s ready to do “real dressage”. He can handle a 45 minute or hour long ride without any trouble, and he’s no longer just stretching his head down toward the bit, but he’s starting to come over his back and use his hind end. I’m starting to get pickier about how he does things like transitions. Instead of being satisfied just with getting the transition, now I want him to use himself more correctly in the transition. I’m starting to add more steps of leg yield and shoulder-in to help prepare him for good transitions and help him learn to keep his back end engaged and try to prevent him from falling on the forehand in the transitions. I’m asking for more bend from him, and quicker changes of bend (straighten for a few steps before bending the other direction, instead of giving him the entire diagonal). I’m asking him to respond to my aids more quickly, and to stay more focused because the aids are coming quicker and the work is getting a little more complicated… and more interesting! I’ve started adding half halts, but good dressage half halts aren’t working yet, he still isn’t quite quick enough to respond to my aids and reorganize his own body, but the idea is there. I have also starting working him over poles at least once a week, and soon the weather should be good enough that I can get him out to work on the hilly trail behind our barn.
Remy seems up to the challenge. He is the type of horse that tries hard because he wants the “good boy”, but he’s not the over achiever type that gets all upset about making a mistake. With Remy, repetition works, he doesn’t seem to anticipate and try to get ahead of me, but he likes to be shown what to do, and as soon as he does it right and gets his “good boy”, then he’s got it. He’s a quick study, and more and more I am really appreciating his temperament… he sure is fun!