I went out to ride again on Sunday and Boomer did very well. He was already improved from our ride on Friday. He was more supple and accepting of the bit. It amazes me how quickly he learns and adapts. We worked more on cantering. In the past, I just let him canter around a few laps in each direction on a loose rein and call it quits. He is to the point now that he has his balance and I can steer him just fine, but he hasn't slowed down any yet. So, we worked on a few exercises to help get him slowed down. First, I had him canter around the ring and drop to a trot for a circle at each end of the ring and at each side. The trot/canter transitions were keeping him excited, so I switched it and made him canter the circles and trot the rail. That was still too exciting, so we started doing walk-canter-walk-halt-back transitions. I threw in a circle at almost every letter (dressage arena letters) and that seemed to work pretty well. At times, he was anticipating the canter and was light up front with his nose up, other times he would not want to walk from the halt-back and was being lazy. The canter did seem more controlled, but not really slowing down yet. I think a few days of that drill will start to work.
I went out to ride today but Boomer had a big bite on his back and was pretty back sore around it, so I didn't ride. It was really cold, 18 and dropping, so I put on his blanket, gave him some grain and hay and called it a day!
I did speak to a lady, Karin, at the barn who is a Dressage instructor and we have made plans for me to have some lessons. She has her bronze and silver medals from USDF and has trained with olympic rider and an olympic coach. Our first day will be January 6th at 10 am. I am really excited. I spoke to her about my goals and I think she will really be able to help us. For the first lesson, I will not warm up first and then for the lessons after that, I can use her warm up drill and warm up on my own to get the most out of the lesson as possible. Also, we talked about my saddle options and I will start out in my western saddle. I get a deeper seat with the western saddle, but my hunt seat saddle gives me more free leg aids. Karin did offer to let me borrow a dressage saddle, so that might be interesting after a few lessons to try. She also talked about me riding one of her horses. She has a 20 year old gelding who is trained in the upper levels.
I am very excited to have this opportunity to train with such an experienced instructor. I really think that taking dressage lessons will help us in several ways. First, I think that dressage is a great cross-training tool for horses of any discipline, including distance riding. Second, I think that Boomer and I could really benefit from some more advanced classical training. We have the basics down, but we need help with things like drive, impulsion, correctness of transitions, and correcting the canter. We have some issues that really get me frustrated that I hope dressage an help with. Boomer tends to toss his nose into the air whenever I take contact with both reins (one rein at a time is OK), he also tends to get very heavy in the front on downward transitions. I hope that we can see some real improvement over the winter!
Before our lessons start, I want to make sure that I can ride as much as possible so that I come to her with the best horse I can. We have three weeks, so I hope to get in at least 9 rides before then! I also hope to ride at least 2-3 times between lessons so that we can progress as much as possible.