Thursday, February 16, 2017

Dressage Test Fail...

I've avoided writing about this for two days now, but it's time to talk about what happened with our dressage test.

For the past month-ish Casey has been a dream. She has a good attitude, she is willing to work, and she is fully cooperative. She also just seems to be really happy. A big part of that is that she LOVES the current bit that we are using (it's a Myler Combo low-port bit). We have gotten to the point that she responds to the lightest rein pressure. She also no longer is bracing against the bit (which was perhaps our biggest problem during the summer/fall). 

BUT... this bit is not dressage-legal.

There are zero riding photos from this, so enjoy photos of Casey eating cookies to accompany this tragic post

So for our dressage test I had to resort to using her old bit, which is a copper-coated, oval link, D-ring snaffle bit. And even though this bit is supposed to be really comfortable and kind to horse's mouths, Casey was beyond offended that I would dare to use this bit on her.

Casey's response to the evil bit was to completely forget how to horse. She resorted to all of our worst habits and completely forget how to use her body. We had giraffing around the arena (when she holds her head really high), tongue constantly over the bit, incessant pulling on the bit, and total refusal to bend (or stop...). And that was just her head! Her body was just as much a hot mess. She forgot how to listen to leg pressure, fell-in at corners, was super tight and tense in her back, and basically could only barrel straight ahead.

It was a frustrating ride, because Casey was getting really tense due to the bit change and I was getting really tense in response to her getting tense and so our communication was just not there. We did run through the dressage test a few times, and things did slightly improve, but not much.

By the end of the lesson, my trainer tried to point out all of the positives, like how much better the last run-through of the test had gone, but I was just in a negative space about the whole thing. I think that I was just disappointed in us, because I had run through the test many times with Casey before and so I knew that we had done a bad job in comparison. It's really rare that I end a ride feeling so negative, but I felt negative that night. I think that I was just frustrated with the situation. It wasn't Casey's fault and it wasn't my fault, and it wasn't my trainer's fault, but knowing that doesn't change that I felt that we should have done better.

The next night I came back out to ride and I decided to keep things really low-stakes. My goal was to just have a positive and fun time with Casey. We switched back to our normal bit, and just like magic, all of the sudden my unicorn horse came back. She went so beautifully for me and we had great communication. It was validating to see that our failure the night before wasn't reflective of where our relationship is currently at (and it also showed me that I need to get a different bit for her for dressage rides).

Since I still need to film my dressage test for this month, my plan is to try again next week, this time with a bit much more similar to the one that Casey loves. In the meantime I am going to just try to have fun with Casey and work on strengthening our communication with each other. My goal is to get to the point that I can use the slightest aids with her and still get a response. Obviously this is a long-term goal and improvement won't happen in a week, but if we can get to a happy place before trying again maybe it won't go so terribly next time!

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