You may remember that when Matt returned to Wales in January he was warned that he would have to return to prepare for the winter championships.
Well, that time has come.
Last Wednesday my parents brought him over. He knew exactly where he was as he walked off the trailer. He marched to his field and, barely saying hello to Otis, put his head down to the fresh grass.
On Thursday morning I schooled him for twenty minutes, by which time he was a steaming ball of puff, before we led Otis out for forty minutes. All I wanted to achieve from this session was to assess him; how supple and how responsive was he? How fit did he feel?
He and Otis were very pleased to see each other, and they started where they’d left off with some mutual grooming!
After our ride and lead I put Otis into the field with Matt; they might as well make the most of being together! Besides, Matt didn’t need all that grass and it’s a good excuse to rest Otis’s paddock.
Friday was another schooling session, but this time I ran through the test, finding the weak points and areas to work on. From there, I can develop a plan.
Unfortunately, Matt seems to be on a permanent high off the spring grass and is incredibly tense for the first twenty minutes of being ridden, and prone to spook at any opportunity. I started giving them hay in the field to try to reduce the grass intake, which I think is helping.
The areas we need to work on are the free walk on a long rein, getting more stretch (we need relaxation for this though!), and the final trot to halt transition, as well as keeping him focused.
On Saturday we started working on these areas, and I felt he was slightly more relaxed in the free walk. His strong, natural rhythm comes through as he relaxes, so overcoming this obstacle is a must!
Sunday was pretty miserable, so I lunged him in the Pessoa to remind him to stretch over his back and towards the contact. He gave some nice stretching by the end, despite the pouring rain and numerous distractions.
I figured Matt had better have Monday off, but on Tuesday the build up of spring grass and general well being meant our most tense, hurried, stressed session to date. I started to panic; there’s only 2 1/2 weeks until the big day! It was the progressive trot to halt transitions that were getting me down. He just stopped, front legs under him and hind legs way out behind, gazing across the fields to Otis! When I corrected him, he just swung his quarters. When I halted to dismount, however, he did a perfect square halt! Arghh!!
Wednesday was another lunge session, with raised poles to get a bit more movement into his back and encourage more stretching. After a lot of canter work, he did some lovely long and low work.
Onto Thursday; we repeated last week’s routine of a short schooling session, running through the test a couple of times, before leading Otis out. It saves tacking Otis up, and I think they like the company, as well as giving Matt a break from the school. He relaxed into the work quicker, and the trot and canter felt much more calm, rhythmical and balanced.
The plan for the next week is a dressage lesson with a local BD judge on Friday evening, and then a PYO class on Saturday afternoon to have a dry run of the test. Both involve a new environment so hopefully he’ll settle quickly and I can gauge how to plan the big day. The next week will be fine tuning the test, based on our feedback, and I’ll try and take him for a hack on Sunday to have a break.
There will be another update next week!