Today started with working my sweet Freddie and doing a video of him. I really like this boy, so if anyone back home is interested in a lovely, sweet, beautiful moving guy with super rideability, check him out. He’s by Fuerstenball, a nice size, about 16.2, and SO comfortable. He’s very sensitive to ride but not crazy in any way. He was actually much more relaxed outside than in the indoor, since he didn’t have to deal with 6 other horses!
Next up was my wonderful Four Seasons. We started out in the indoor with our normal warm up routine – low and loose posting trot then forward canter in a light seat. We did a little canter work with a half pass each direction and then some pirouettes. The single changes felt very good today. We then did some trot work and worked to get him active behind through half halts in the corners but not too much hand, so he stays out in the neck. The trot felt fantastic. I rode some shoulder in, which is not something I see ridden here very often. But it helps me get that R shoulder and L hind under control and keep the trot seated and not too passage-y.
Olli went outside with Charlott-Maria Schuermann, who is preparing her stallion, Burlington, for a show soon. She is one of my favorite riders in the barn to watch. She is young (22 or 23?) and petite but gets so much out of this stallion. He is a son of Breitling, and they are not known for having the fanciest gaits, especially in the beginning, but his talent for collection is incredible.
I wasn’t sure whether to go outside or stay out of their way, so I let Four Seasons walk for a bit and then rode walk-piaffe transitions until they felt quick and easy. I saw in the mirror that he did some that were good and seated with his hind legs under him. Since Olli was still outside with Charlotte, I wandered outside to walk Four Seasons and watch. They were working on the pirouettes on the center line from the GP.
After a while, Olli said, “Ok, let’s do some canter work.” So back to work we went, and Four Seasons actually felt super after such a long break. We did a few long half passes and then a zig zag that was quite good and pretty easy. Then back to trot and some transitions from trot to passage and back out to trot. Olli wanted me to really use my seat and not too much hand. This is a somewhat frustrating request when the horse is 100 lbs in your hand. But I had a good breakthrough at the end. I kept trying to give a big enough half halt so that I could then let go afterwards – really let go, like an uberstreichen. But too much giving in that way is really just another version of “busy” hands. If I thought of STEADY and ELASTIC instead of LIGHT, then I could focus on using my seat more. And he also did end up getting lighter. I think Olli’s version of light and my version of light are two different things. All of these horses take SO much more contact than I’m used to. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing. They really GO to the hand. And while the end goal is to have a horse going with a light contact, I think I err on the side of having the horses too light and therefore not truly connected. Pulling on the reins is always a bad idea, but so is throwing them away. I need to forget (somewhat) about the contact when I am trying to get more activity, more engagement, etc. If I have the reins a good length, have a steady connection with the horse, and ride him from back to front, then the contact will end up being what I want. This is simplifying it a bit, but it helps me to think of it this way.
Tomorrow I will head out to Aachen to watch the GP Special. Everyone is abuzz in the barn about Totilas. Olli said he thinks we will never see the horse in competition again after this. I hope he’s wrong, because that would be a very sad ending for such an incredible animal. I will hopefully get to meet up with The Dressage Foundation’s International Dream Program, since they are all there and watching. They have been having a wonderful time and have met up with Kyra, Carl Hester, many judges, Bo Jena, etc. I helped organize the trip this year, and I’m so glad it’s going smoothly. I’ll be sure to take lots of pics!