“On the bit”, “In front of the leg”, “through”…pick your cliché. They all work to describe the indescribable. I’m sure Germany has a word that means all of those things, but we Americans struggle coming up with the most perfect phrase or word to capture the most basic dressage principle. Every time I think I know what connection feels like and I think, finally, Savy is on the bit, we push the envelope and I realize once again how little I know. After competing successfully at Training Level, I am 100% focused on reaching First. This means more connection, more drive, and more finesse. I absolutely have to consistently ride with a true dressage seat, basically using my hips, rather than my usual seat which is somewhere between a dressage seat and a hunter seat. This is tough. Almost as tough and getting used to steady connection with Savy’s mouth (short reins). My hips and lower back have been killing me. I mean killing me. To the point where it hurts to walk up right the next day if I’ve been sitting for a while.
And since we’ve stepped it up a notch, Savy is testing me. We had one of those “come to Jesus” rides the other night that make me question while I do this to myself and my horse. Rides like this start out innocently enough and then Savy decides, no, I’m not bending to the right. Absolutely not. This is her go to when the work gets harder. She tries to evade the connection. The ride left me with a bad taste in my mouth, but we worked though it, and it gave me some good insight.
As my trainer would say Savy is playing me. Nicole and I have been working on quieting my hands so that Savy’s head doesn’t move when I give rein aids. So during my ride I made a conscious effort to not do anything with my hands down the long side where I could watch us in the mirror. Savy’s head was still moving ever so slightly back and forth. I realized that Savy wasn’t pushing into the contact enough, and not truly connected. This tiny head wag was the only indication. By all accounts she looked like she was “on the bit”. Her neck was arched with a relaxed poll, she was moving forward and correctly bent to the inside. My new driving seat really makes a difference. I know what it feels like now for her to be “in front of me”, and I’m getting harder to fool. That being said, these tough rides are usually followed by a couple months of beautiful work and progress.
Speaking of First Level I almost need to starting giving Savy her own training update. Girl is a rock star. She pulled out high 60’s on both of her first First Level tests without breaking a sweat. Her only issue is trot lengthening’s, and it’s only because of strength. That will come with time. She is only 5 and not built for dressage. She does seem to be built for lateral work though. Nicole started working baby half-passes with her and she didn’t bat an eye. She just did them like no big deal. Nicole also told me she almost popped out a flying change in the counter canter because she was so balanced. She didn’t because she doesn’t want Savy to get too far ahead of me. I have to get to First Level!!!
Thanks to our new barn buddy Erin, I have some awesome video from out last lesson.