Preparation Is Everything!

Since the last show we have hardly ridden a particular movement, no shoulder in, no half pass. We have almost exclusively working on suppleness. On having Hafl more through, more round, more straight, more on the bit, more on his hind. We could have ridden countless shoulder ins, countless canter walk transitions, countless half passes. And still, with that we would hardly improve our overall performance.

Hafl knows his jobs, he knows the aids for shoulder in, he hates haunches in on the right hand but still KNOWS what that means. Sometimes it is just that the aids do not reach him fast enough, that he simply does not respond fast enough. Because he is stiff to one side, because I have too much inside rein on the left hand, because... There is plenty of reasons why certain movements are not a 10 - neither at home nor at shows (never at shows for sure). So, what we need to do is to work on his suppleness. He needs to be soft and responsive, both hands worked alike, trying to be as straight as possible. That is what we worked on the last few weeks. It felt like being thrown back to the basics. I felt like an idiot. Doing a halt all over again whenever he pushed against my hands, whenever it was not a perfect halt. Trot on - stop - trot on again because there was resistance. Doing things all over again hundreds of times because we were not paying enough attention to these details over the last years - jap, years, because sometimes we are not preparing ourselves good enough! We do a transition that is not a 100% - it is rather an 80% or less resulting in a 60% at shows - when we have a good day. We sometimes (we means US - me AND you!) choose to go down the easy road - because doing it perfectly means more work - not only for the horse (and yes, Hafl keeps asking: do we really have to do it right now after not having to do it for the last years?), also for us. Being aware that whenever I halt for getting rid of my pullover or grab my water bottle, I let Hafl stop on his forehand, rising his head IMMEDIATELY (at the speed of light - honestly!) and being ok good ahhhh can play giraffe now, is a pain - really! You need to find out where you cheat - and oh my, I found hundreds of ways to cheat over the years - not helping Hafl enough in small circles - yeah, that's been me, not having him round through transitions - yeah, me again, not keeping enough eyes on his hind - yeah, caught me red handed.

Sure, horses can perform without these basics - we are a good proof of that but they cannot perform at their best. With keeping your focus on basics like suppleness, movements come easy - a super duper flexible and straight horse can shift his front and hind wherever you want.

Preparation for any movement is key in training - not only when focusing on suppleness, rhythm, straightness, but also when you ride the stride BEFORE a particular movement. Preparing is way more important than the movement itself. For example, if you prepare a walk pirouette correctly, the pirouette will happen magically almost on its own. What I often did was to do it like that: sleep, sleep, oh my god, walk pirouette. What you should do: walk, more walk, upwards half halt, more active hind, yet another half halt, shoulder fore, shoulder in, active hind, active hind, aids for the walk pirouette - done! Riding a dressage test is not riding just the movements - it is riding FROM movement TO movement! Concentrating on the basics (that is straightness for example) between two movements is part of the preparation for the following movements. That is also why I always claimed that corners are your friends (read more on the success just around the corner here). I knew that it was important to prepare, to ride corners, to use the time between the movements. I just did not really know how - but with the work of the last few weeks, I got some new tools in my tool box.

We will keep on working on these basics for the next two weeks. There will be a show this weekend and the last one next weekend. And after that, winter training will start. With more work and emphasis on the basics. The basics that we need to prepare for our next challenge - the flying changes.

Well, no, NO need to raise your head to look at the camera!

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