Thanks, Lord, for the rainfall that hit my arena. It was enough to water the grass, and to dampen the dust down, but not too much to make mud. Thank You!
I grabbed Ransom in all his finest dressage garb, side reins included, and headed for the arena. It only took a few minutes of him free lunging and watching my body language before he realized A) we weren't goofing off, and B) the arena footing was perfect for work.
Side rein lunge line for a while, as I watched him stretch down & out while leaving slack in the side reins. As he settled into nice transitions trot/canter/trot, trot/walk/trot, I knew we were ready for serious.
I settled into the saddle. The winds died down, much to our misfortune, as the sun was still beating on the arena. In his new clipped coat, Ransom doesn't mind the heat much, and transitions are much easier.
We worked some collected walk, to free walk, and back. A few trot sets, with many direction changes, added in some trot/walk/halt and back up as he loosened his back up.
As I asked for the canter, I allowed our intial transitions in both directions to be ugly. As long as he didn't sprint forward, his head was allowed to raise up. I headed down long side, canter-right, towards my center 20m circle, and Ransom's, um, "forward impulsion" was great! A bit too great. He wasn't uncontrollable, but when I imagined what it looked like from the ground, and compared it to what I know I've seen on dressage test tv shows, it was a bit too much.
So we repeated in and out of canter on the circles and in the corners, heading down long side, and mixed it up, breaking to trot after the circle on the long side, and on the last 3/4 of the circle. Never once ran a whole test, but only the pieces, trying to incorporate all of the harder spots for us.
In between the canters, I fit in some trot to halt at X. After his first canter-out, the trot to halt is SO much better. It's got to be some muscles that loosen up, because if I try trot to halt early in the ride, they're horrendous. If I wait it out, and ride trot to halt late in the rides, he's much better.
Between his lunging, and my riding, we put in about 50 minutes. Only one few minute spurt was relaxed loose on the buckle walk. The rest, was work! Whether free walk still on contact, or collected canter trying to adjust his stride, Ransom was very tuned-in to my body language of "Listen dude, I'm not here to goof off, I'm not here to be relaxed. We're working, so get in line!" *laugh*
For his cool-down, I tried again to get "stretchy down trot" circles. To the right, these are just down-right beautiful. I was working him to a collected trot, then slowly stretching my hands apart, decreasing the wiggle-wiggle in my arms, and anytime he'd stretch down, I'd release the reins briefly. He's got this idea down-pat heading right, left it's sporadic. Some release-downs are gorgeous, while other times he simply levels out his head & withers, and sticks his nose out, hollowing his back. Ah.. but this is a TL test 3 movement, something not to be worried about perfecting anytime soon.
The most fun parts of our ride right now? Transitions from rising trot to sitting trot! Holy trot! That's a First Level rider movement! Freaking apples sitting trot. When I feel all of my lower body relax, waist-down, it's a phenominal feeling. These moments don't last long yet, though. We have plenty more to learn.
Countdown to Sienna, 3 days. Lesson tonight.. focusing on the tests, and any last-minute fixing miracles we can accomplish.