Day 2 at Camp Barisone for Magnificent Chestnut Dutch Horses went much better than the first, mostly because I wasn't at the farm most of the day. If idle hands are the devil's plaything (Yesterday I went shopping at both Marshall's and the Dover Saddlery store; NOT good!), I was all virtue today.
Justin, Michael's assistant trainer, and I went for a run in the dark at 5:30 this morning (2.6 miles, wahoo). Then I hit the road and spent the day with my friend Jaime, including watching her adorable 3-year-old warmblood mare, then tooling around Monmouth Racetrack's back barns (super cool), and having an extremely excellent gyro sandwich for lunch.
At long last I got down to the business of riding my horse, which is what I'm actually here to do. He was, as usual, marvelous.
Midge has been mighty great at home, and everything's felt really good, both in the daily work and in practicing the tests. I came to Michael's with two goals: to figure out what it is that is keeping Midge's pirouettes from bigger marks, and to figure out the best approach to Midge's passage. In the pirouettes, Midge tends to get a little climby and turns too quickly. In the passage, I have lots of options, and sometimes I'm not sure which is best: big steps, little ones? Accelerate before the turn, during or after? How many steps before the piaffe transition should I hit the gas?
The pirouettes will be a process over time. Midge's canter in its nature has a tendency to get climby, and I've improved it a lot, but it's still a work in progress. But he also tends to take a BIG first step, and I'd struggled to figure out how to deter that.
Michael figured out the answer: more bend. If I ride Midge really straight into the pirouette, then when I touch the inside rein to steer him, he's super sensitive to it and goes flying over to the side. But if I come into the pirouette with inside bend - not a crazy amount, just a normal amount of bend - he's not so keen to the turn aid. Voila!
In the passage, it's a matter of muscle memory for me. In the last few weeks I've found a whole new gear, particularly around the turns. Michael was very helpful in telling me what had the right "look" for the show ring.
In my warm-up, I touch on everything - a little too open, a little too closed, a little too ground-covering, a little too up-and-down. Then when I get in the test, I have the whole spectrum available to me.
And I'll do it all again tomorrow!