I consolidated prep work by feeding him some alfalfa cubes and finishing his grooming in his stall. Then I tacked him up in his stall and he finished the last cubes just before I was ready to put the bridle on. Score two for team work!
|My partner in crime.|
Once in the tack, we warmed up with our walk exercises and then proceeded to trot. Harley's energy felt great, uninhibited and free flowing. He was reaching into the bridle and clearly asking for more, so I started riding to a point in the arena. We tooled all around the ring with lots of changes of direction and variations in pattern. I rode from my weight aids and my eyes. Harley loves that game.
Since it was such a nice temperature, I thought we should work some canter, so I shortened my reins and asked Harley to step into more contact and carry himself. As he obediently worked the dust off the gears and adjusted himself to a more dressage-y frame, it dawned on me. I am thinking about working the canter and I have not worked the walk or trot yet! Talk about running before you can walk. It was time for some walk-trot transitions.
And boy am I glad that we went there. Forward is always the first ingredient and this is no different when you are riding transitions. I had to really encourage Harley to stay through before, during, and after the transition. Predictably, it was easiest for him to stay forward in the upward transition, but much more difficult in the downward. He also likes to try to suck back going right: the reins get loopy even though I have not changed their length. I did my best to keep my elbows at my sides and give him a steady feel. I also worked hard NOT to pull on the bit. I let my legs tell him to lengthen his neck and carry himself by stepping more under with his hind legs.
This was challenging, especially the part where I had to put more leg on during the downward transition. Interestingly, my outside leg had to do the heaviest lifting. I can almost initiate the downward transition off my outside leg alone. I believe this is because he already engages the inside hind nicely, but has a tendency to lean in (hence his motorcycle-inspired name). My outside leg stands him up and helps him stay balanced laterally, which improves his longitudinal balance. Neat.
Even though he loves to GO, GO, GO, Harley needs reminders to keep the impulsion in the downward transition. Likewise, he needs reminders to relax and not rush in the upward. I am sure that as we both improve our endurance this will get easier, because I typically do not like to subscribe to the "more leg" camp, but sometimes it does help work the dust free.