This Is Not A Drill
We've all experienced 'trainer withdrawal' after a great lesson. With help from your chosen professional, your horse goes the best he's ever gone in a lesson, but then once you get him home and try to apply the same methods on your own for the first time, you struggle and fail during those first several attempts before being able to re-create it yourself. It's frustrating, but it's part of the learning process.
This hasn't been the case for Dino and I since our last lesson with Ashley a couple weeks ago, and I'm still in awe over it.
That new collected canter is SOLID and ACCESSIBLE and I can get it WHENEVER I WANT. It wasn't just a fluke created solely by Ashley's presence, but it's something that Dino and I truly own. And that has me thinking - maybe going 2nd Level next year isn't such a crazy idea.
I mean it SOUNDS crazy saying it out loud and writing it here, after all my pony is coming 22 next year and neither of us have ever ventured this deep into the waters of dressage, but after talking with some dear friends who have been much further up the levels than I have, their enthusiastic encouragement has me mulling it over more seriously. I've been reading over 2-1 and watching videos of tests, and trying some of the movements in schooling. And while we're definitely not ready to head down centerline at that level tomorrow, it's something that feels downright achievable with more strength and hard work on both our parts.
The gaits, collection, and balance we need for 2nd are there, for sure. Over the last few months Dino's strength has increased dramatically as the things we've learned from Ashley have sunk in and solidified, and the way he carries himself has improved tenfold. His response to the aids has drastically improved as well, which allows me to ask him for the more difficult movements. The lateral work isn't where I want it, but it's getting better, and we do have an okay shoulder-in to start with. The medium gaits are getting better all the time, and with the better quality canter we have now, the counter-canter pattern in 2-1 is no problem at all. Plus, I've had a halt and rein-back installed forever.
What I see as being our main obstacles are the 10m canter circle, polishing up the shoulder-in, and my own strength and fitness in sitting trot. But, all of these things are skills that we can work on, and a lot of it just needs more strength training for both Dino and I. I do have to be mindful of giving him more rest days when he's working this hard, but so far he's been doing really, really well with the more strenuous work!
Dino is also going to be 22 in 6 months, and who knows how much time left we'll have to compete together. The fact that I'm even considering taking him 2nd next year is an absolute and utter gift, and I'm not taking one moment of this journey for granted! I want to do this while we can, if we can, and the more I think about it, the more I just want to go for it.
So, here we go. 2nd Level, here comes Wonder Pony.