Faxx steps up to the plate

It has been awhile since I took a lesson from Marie on Faxx. Between horse shows, Debbie Bowman clinics and other conflicts our schedules just haven’t meshed. Faxx and I really needed some help in some of the first level movements. Specifically the leg yield from K to X that has been eating our lunch.

As usual, Marie could see to the root of the problem. The problem with that movement was just the symptom. Faxx needs to get much more ‘adjustable’ and learn to make quicker changes of  bend, changes of direction, etc. and listen to me and stay on the aids. He is not falling out the right shoulder as badly, but is still leaning against my right leg the opposite direction.

We did all sorts of great exercises to get him quicker in reacting to changes of bend, and in general more ‘handy.’  One that I am incorporating in Faeryn’s ‘repertoire’  — do a 10 meter circle at trot, and when you finish the circle, change the bend and pick up the canter and do a 15 meter canter circle. This illustrated to me just how slow Faxx was to respond to my aids. Faeryn did it much better when I tried it out on her this evening. And yet another (that Faeryn is also doing now) is to do a three loop serpentine…start out at canter, and change leads through trot every time you cross the centerline. Faxx did this one a bit better than the trot/canter one. Faeryn did it fairly well and will be a good ‘intermediate’ step to get her ready for the second level movement where you have to do a simple change every time you cross the centerline.

And today was Marie’s Mother’s Day show. I had not ridden these new tests before in a show situation with Faxx. I was not really concerned about how I scored  — this outing was definitely for practice. I am showing him at an Arabian show Memorial Day weekend and that will be my only chance to qualify him for Arab/Half Arab sporthorse championships. And, we only have two months to improve our game before the championships themselves.

Even though Faxx has been to Marie’s many times, he’s gotten silly about spooking at anything that is ‘different.’ Today some chairs had been MOVED (horrors!) and there was a table set up near the arena with auction items for a charity that Marie supports. I had just a few minutes in the arena during a break and he would not get NEAR that one side. I was so aggravated by him! I didn’t have time to ‘fix’ the problem before we were booted out for the show to begin. In the warm up arena, I made him constantly do figure 8s, leg yields, shoulder in – anything but just ‘trotting pretty’ along the rail.  He was working pretty well.  When I went into the arena for our test, I had a minute to cruise around the ring and he was still spooking along one side and I rode him more aggressively than I think I ever have before – using my whip and my spur to get him OVER and stop looking at stuff. He got better, but not completely “over it” before the judge blew the whistle. He was very ‘up’ over getting ridden more ‘assertively’ than I think I ever have before – when Faxx gets boogered, he wants to stop – and I was determined he was going to keep going FORWARD no matter what. He drifted a few feet off the rail despite my best efforts — BUT he was listening to me and did not ‘stiffen’ against me. He was also very animated. His free walk was better than usual – he has a fabulous walk but just wants to ‘wander’ across the diagonal. I kept after his butt to go forward, forward, forward. He is getting the lengthenings pretty well now – his trot can sometimes get a bit uneven if I push him out of balance, but the canter lengthening – and the transition back to working canter – has gotten very reliable. When I’d done, it felt overall a bit ragged to me, since it seemed I was just booting him every stride – but bystanders were going ‘wow’ at his movement and connection. He DID stay nicely connected for the most part.

I had an hour between rides and discovered I’d scored a 67% before I had to go again – but did not get to see my test first.

My next ride was First 3 – home of the killer K to X leg yield. It was bad – it felt like a 2 to me. He also got a bit uneven in the trot lengthenings because I pushed him too much. His halts at X were all better than what we had last year.

In all, riding him more ‘assertively’ I think is the answer. I have been ‘babying’ him too much (as Marie said).  So we got a 65.1 on the second test – I got a 5 on the canter/trot/canter transition across the diagonal. Definitely need to practice that more. We won our first test by a large margin, and landed in second place by a few tenths of a place in the second ride. But, i was very happpy with that as a first effort. The person who beat us has been showing first level for several years.  Oh – and that movement that felt like a 2 to me? We got a 6. LOL!

He will just improve from here. he got 8s on gaits for both tests and I got 7s for rider. I have known this judge for a long time and she has never seen Faxx before. I saw her at the lunch break – after I was finished – and she told me I was riding better than she’d ever seen me ride. I feel llike I am riding better. For one, I am sitting up straight and not looking down. And I am getting better at keeping my legs longer and keeping them a bit further back and resisting the urge to draw my leg up. So I am much more efffective with my legs. So it was a good day and I feel a bit better about the prospect of showing him at the rated Arab show. He has one more schooling show before then – on May 21. Debbie Bowman is also coming that weekend, so i will show him in the morning and then go ride another horse in the clinic in the afternoon!

I rode Faeryn this evening and she is just a blast. she has come a LONG way in just a few months. I am going to show her First level at the HDS June show with an eye toward qualifying her for the Region 9 championships held this fall. By fall I hope she is ready to show second level in schooling shows – and by next year she should be ready to show second level at recognized shows. She is already doing a lot of third level work – she can do a good walk pirouette and we’re starting half pass work. She needs to get her canter/walk/canter transition and her mediusm. But the mediums are coming.

I rode Fling Friday and did not get the ‘magical’ canter pirouette – but no worries. Her canter in general is much better and I got several really good flying changes. Life is good.

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