I started today with Don Daly. He is a 13 year old gelding owned by a young rider, but he does all of the GP. He's one that I haven't seen go, since I think his owner comes in the afternoons. He is smaller, probably just 16 or 16.1 and all black. Doesn't look like much standing in his stall, but I know enough not to judge a book by it's cover. :) Olli told me to ride him with draw reins. He said he's good with draw reins or a double, but you cannot ride him with a snaffle alone. I don't know if he meant *I* could not ride him with a snaffle or if no human being could ride him with a snaffle...
As predicted, his small size and unimpressive exterior was hiding an amazing horse!! He is indeed strong in the hand but he got better and better. The thing I don't understand about the draw reins is that I have never found draw reins to be very helpful with horses that are incredibly heavy. If they want to go around upside down, I would understand draw reins. If they are incredibly stiff and you need help to supple them, I get it. But if they straight up hang on the reins, they are probably able to hang on the draw reins as well. And when they are ridden every day in draw reins, I don't see how they will learn anything from them. This guy got lighter and lighter at the end when I let the draw reins hang and just kept doing small überstreichens to get him more on my seat. Plus riding collected work, helped ;)
Anyway, Olli had me ride shoulder in and half pass in trot after a general warm up. Don Daly is super in both. He really wanted me to keep his hind legs on the track in the shoulder in and not let them fall out, so that there was NO crossing behind. As soon as that happens, you lose the engaging element of the exercise. He wanted a lot of bend through the body without the loss of haunches, which is hard, but Don Daly is a pro. The half passes were really super, and again, more bend.
After a brief walk break, Olli said, let's do canter and the changes. I picked him up and tried to get him a bit softer and then got the canter feeling good. We did threes that were extremely easy, but Olli wanted me absolutely still in my upper body. No turning into the new lead, just totally straight and a small leg aid along with seat bones. The next line was better and much straighter both for Don Daly and me. Then twos that were quite easy. We rode those quite a few times, since Olli was either helping someone else (there are usually at least 6 horses in that small arena!) or on the phone. But after 3 or 4 good lines, both on the longside and the diagonal, I gave him a break.
I was kind of hoping we would do a little piaffe and passage then, but Olli said, "You didn't ride the ones?" Even better! I have never had a horse that really knew ones. I taught them to my guy, Lancer, but I was always fumbling around with timing, etc, and we would hardly ever be able to get a full diagonal of 15.
So I got him together again and prepared for the next longside. He is truly incredible with the ones. 9 straight, easy, big, uphill ones, no problem. But Olli said, "those were good, but the ones to the right were not as big as to the left." So we did it again. At this point Don Daly was getting SUPER sensitive to the leg, and I was asking with too big an aid, even though he was doing them well. Olli wanted me to ask with very small leg aids, and just keep the rhythm with my seat. We did diagonal after diagonal of super ones. Part of me kept wanting to stop and give him a sugar, but the other part kept saying, "do it again!" I need to memorize that feeling as best I can, and you can't do that from only one or two diagonals.
Finally I had to stop and pet him. Hopefully I can try again another day. We did some stretchy trot to end and walked around outside. It's so strange to me that they don't go outside more. Their footing is perfect. The arena is 20x60. The weather has been GORGEOUS! (They said it was hot yesterday, and it was about 82 for a high... Spoiled Germans.) They only seem to go outside to practice tests.
Next up was Four Seasons. Today Olli wanted him in the double with my Neue Schule snaffle. I think it was really good! We had a lot of super canter work with no tongue problem. He just has a Mullen mouth curb. I warmed him up quiet and swingy and then rode some canter half passes. He is so talented for these and they make him really sit. I then rode some changes, 3s and 2s, and tried to keep my lesson from Don Daly in mind and sit Totally still and just give small leg aids. Four Seasons is not as easy in the changes, but they are very good.
Olli wants Four Seasons up and as open as possible in the frame. He has a slightly low set neck and wants to use his under neck when the half halts don't go through. But when you put him low, he just over flexes at the 3rd vertebra and doesn't lift the base of the neck. This is very different than the way he rides the other horses, so it always takes me a little bit to feel like I have him where he should be. But I totally agree that he is much better in every way when up and out. However, in my effort to keep him from curling, I often end up riding with my hands too high. A few days ago he must have told me to put my hands down about 20 times. So yesterday I didn't want to hear him say, "Put your hands down," even once. He said it three times. Today he only said it once. Victory! (Or he's given up and is resigned to the fact that I ride with my hands up above my belly button like a saddle seat rider...)
He then wanted me to do pirouettes. This was a really helpful lesson today, because we did some pirouettes from the diagonal line, like in a test, and this is even more helpful to me than feeling good working pirouettes (which is also super.) I was to make him 100% straight on the line and then really collect him absolutely on the spot before I started to turn him. He was listening very well to this. But then he gets too slow in the pirouette and doesn't make enough strides as he goes around. I thought Olli wanted me to make the canter tempo quicker. But he wants me to keep him super collected, and allow the tempo to slow but just add more strides to the pirouette, like more slices to the pie. If you think of the 360* pirouette as a pie, he wants 8 slices, not 6. I finally felt like I was able to add or take away strides, ride a little out or a little in, so that the pirouette was really under my control. So often we prepare the pirouette and then we have to just say a prayer until we ride out of it, but this felt adjustable in every way.
I took Fritzi outside to cool down too, and one of Olli's young riders was riding through her test on Salcido. She is going to lease him for the year to do Young Riders and then he will be sold. He looked wonderful. I didn't catch her name, but Olli said she was only 18 and was one of the best Young Riders in Germany.
Lastly I rode the 4 year old Floriscount mare, Fleur, again. Everyone was busy packing up to leave with three horses for Verden, so I rode her outside, since I could tell Olli did not have time to help me. He has to drive the big lorry to Verden and will be there through Sunday. He was explaining that only he can drive the lorry because you need a special license, and Antin (his rider) only has a license to pull a small trailer.
Fleur was really good today, and it was nice to have a quiet arena to myself to do some supplying exercises and take time with her. She felt wonderful at the end.
Tomorrow I will go to Verden to watch, and then my whole family will go on Saturday. Tomorrow I can watch the warmup of the 5 and 6 year olds and one of the first FEI classes - since Verden is a CDI with small and big tour as well as the young horses. I'll take lots of pics!!