I woke this morning at 5 a.m. My mind was racing with images of Garth and Deszi in the dressage and show jump rings, and on the Sporting Days cross-country course. Words danced across the images like the intro to The Twilight Zone: balance, impulsion, forward, power, submission, engagement.
Though I enjoyed the picture show, I re-rode every moment working through corrections and better reactions, while planing a course of action for improvement. This went on for 45 minutes.
Deszi was very focused and willing in the ring. Her test was accurate, but lacked the thrust and suspension we have been developing. I should have quieted her stride, and rode her forward into the bridle. Her stretch circle (which I did NOT forget!), was really lovely, yet she was complacent about the second canter transition.
Before our next test, I will “perk her up” more as we circle the ring. She warmed up beautifully for show jumping: focused, keen and all business. Like a bull preparing to charge the matador, Deszi pawed impatiently at the stadium entry gate. Our round was better than those before, but still stands for improvement.
She is deceptively quiet in her canter, lulling me into a soft, slow rhythm. If I do not engage her hind end well before moving into the turn to a fence, I am too late — she often needs a good kick. A curiosity compared to the other Thoroughbreds I have ridden.
Cross-country was fun, and she is a FUN horse to ride! I have yet to ask for her full gallop on course — she covers ground so easily and does not back off at anything. She is patient and willing. Deszi ended on her dressage score sound, happy, and bright eyed.
Yet again, Garth had a lot to say during dressage warm-up. Fortunately, he kept the commentary to himself until we were leaving the ring on a loose rein. With every whinny, Garth never lost focus on the movement, or the transition into a new movement. I realized — Garth is the only male I know capable of multitasking.
Our dressage is a work in progress. Pressing him forward to showcase his powerful, big movement has been our typical approach. This also creates a lot of tension in my upper body, as I brace to hold him together and help to lift his forehand. I am focusing on the half-halt, a lighter contact, and asking Garth to hold himself up — a surprisingly difficult task when put into action.
We had lovely moments, and moments spoiled by anticipation, unclear communication, and undisciplined aids. However, our recoveries were concise and accurate. Garth was his typical spooky, reactive self in the show jumping warm-up, and I will plan to take him for a little gallop before entering stadium warm-ups, if possible.
He felt great: powerful, bold, and high above the fences. We have worked on square turns to the fences, and maintaining the haunch/shoulder alignment to the fences. I need to ride more forward to a closer distance, for a stronger jump effort.
Cross-country was great: bold, clear response to the aids, and less time adjusting to the fences. I’m most thrilled about his gallop: easy off the leg, a better stride, and the effort was minimal for him. That was a wonderful feeling! Garth also ended on his dressage score, eager for another run cross country as he tried to trot back to the trailer — whinnying for all to hear!
Deszi’s strength really amazed me at this competition. She came out of winter particularly strong, and as a coming 6-year-old, I think her body has started to settle through growth changes. Initially, I questioned her competitive future, but now I believe she is far more capable then I originally thought. She requires a gentle, well-planned ride, that is accurate stride-for-stride — an excellent partner for me and my continued desire to improve.
Garth continues to be my shining star. I often wondered if it is possible to be paired with another being, who becomes an extension of your own body. That is what our partnership feels like to me. When I sit on him, wrap my arms around his neck, or lean into his shoulder, I am calmed and softened. He is a very special horse in ways I have yet to fully understand.
The added plus is Deszi and Garth came home with blue ribbons.
Thank you for riding alongside us!
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