I have practiced yoga for over 12 years now. I remember struggling with even doing plank pose; and the thought of mastering scorpion pose, crow pose, or half moon pose seemed a pipe dream. Yet now, I can perform all of those poses without a second thought. As Baron Baptiste tells you on one of his DVDs, “Start where you are and from there you will progress.” I try to remember those words as I struggle with mastering the skills necessary to progress to Second Level. You have to start somewhere and if you never start, you will never progress.
The thought of Second Level is daunting. For more accomplished riders, they are probably thinking, “What is the big deal?” I am thinking “Yikes! This is where the crap hits the fan!” No more posting the trot, no more big circles or bee bopping around on half speed. You need to be fully present during every stride – much like you need to be fully present when attempting scorpion pose.
I have spent some time checking out the new 2015 dressage tests for Second Level. There is A LOT of work to be done this winter. Well, let’s be honest, we might need spring and some of summer to get into Second Level show shape. I’ve broken down the tests and decided these are the key items for Ike and I to master.
Sitting Trot – This one is all on me. I still tilt my pelvis in the wrong direction. I still stiffen rather than relaxing. I still lean either too far forward or too far back. When I lean back and brace in my stirrups, I look like I’m water skiing. (This is as close as I’ve ever come to actually water skiing.) People say, “strengthen your core.” My core is strong, but yet I still struggle to find the sweet spot.
Collected Trot – Phew! It is a lot of work to get the giraffe to sit down and really engage his hind end. It is also a revelation to me to feel what a correct collected trot feels like. It is not just slowing the horse down. It is all about mushing the energy inwards and upwards. When Ms. C yells, “there is your collected trot!” I am thinking, “You have got to be kidding me! How am I supposed to maintain this?!”
Medium Trot – This fall at the regional championships, we received a 6 for our trot lengthening with the comment “Conservative.” I could not argue with the score or the comment. If I tried to push for more, poor Ike would get unbalanced and we’d get scores of 5. It was better to be conservative. I am happy to say that our trot lengthenings are coming along. They are not quite medium trots yet, but I am hopeful that they will be there come spring…of course, I still have to figure out how to sit that medium trot.
Collected Canter and 10 meter canter circles. What size?! I am pretty certain with Baby Huey that a ten meter circle is probably a canter pirouette. Still not sure how we are going to master this. Any circle smaller than 15 meters usually ends up in trot. Our collected canter quality isn’t always the best; Ike gets a little sticky and the canter feels like a pogo stick. Just need more time and less help from the neighborhood wildlife (Ike wants to move quickly away from any wild creature.)
Counter canter. Still our nemesis. The shallow canter loop of the First Level Test 3 test is about the extent of our counter canter success. A full three loop serpentine? No way. Even just riding the short end of the arena in counter canter is a crap shoot. I have to over ride and over emphasize the counter bend and yet the boy can still throw in a flying change. All we can do is keep trying.
Simple Transitions. Slowly, but surely, we are progressing with our simple transitions. Our walk-to-canter transitions are better than our canter-to-walk transitions. The down transitions are better when we train in our double bridle; not at all surprising. Ike still needs a few trot strides before the walk when we work in our snaffle. I am still pleased with where we are.
As if the above isn’t enough…we also have….
Shoulder in and Travers. If I had to pick Ike’s stronger movements, I would say it is his lateral work. How could it not be with those long legs? As long as I set him up for success, both shoulder in and travers are going well. At least we have two strong points in our quest for Second Level success.
Rein back. Rein back is one of Ike’s favorite movements when evading my aids for turn on the forehand and turn on the haunches. Unfortunately, he also likes to duck behind vertical and give me more than the required number of steps.
Turn on the haunches. The best I can say about this required movement is that it is not in Test 1. This is definitely a work in progress. “Start where you are. Start where you are.”
Our work is currently on hiatus as I fight the flu. Have no fear. Ike and I will be back to work before you know it.