In the last few rides, I've been preparing for a show this coming Sunday. Training 1, Training 2, Prix Caprilli 1. I've gathered some new supplies for the show (true shipping boots, and a rolling saddle & supply rack), with a magnet sheet on the way soon. I hope it arrives before Sunday, but I'll make it work without.
I've noticed that, at home, Harley is amazingly good. He's soft, willing, forward, and seems to pay good attention to me. At the shows, he always feels stiff and heavy. Lazy, too laid back, and incredibly difficult to bend. I rode some test parts earlier this week, and he did it again. So I started to observe everything I could use.
And within a few minutes, I found it. When I start thinking, "this piece, then this piece, then next I'll do.. and next...", my upper body locks up. Stiffens - tenses - I lose my soft hands and my cooperative elbows and nice way of following him. Harley responds by, of course, tensing up.
In the coming competition, I need to ride the horse, and his movement, and not the test parts. I need to focus on how he's doing, and bury the test parts in the back of my mind. I have practiced this a LOT this week since I figured it out. I spent one entire ride thinking off to the side "next is a circle here", then in front thinking "this is a good time for a little inside leg to outside rein, support him, look with my whole upper body in the turn, ,GOT IT."
It's a shift. I realize I'm slowly growing into being calm enough in my position, and secure enough in my cues, that I can think about HOW I'm going to get there, and not just getting there. Instead of putting all my mind into "outside leg back for the canter, eyes, give with my hands, squeeze", I can think "okay, here, we're going to transition to the canter, so ahead I need to prepare him for it, squeeze him up, look, leg yield and ask, but know where we're going after we do it." It should make for a very interesting show.
My goal for Prix Caprilli is simple - jump the jumps. Not trot-overs, but approach them with enough energy in the trot that he'll actually put the jumping effort into it. Land in canter, bring him back to trot , as the test actually says, rather than just a lazy trot-over.