Please excuse my trite comparisons to cheesy (yet wonderful) holiday movies.
In any case, Dante has been back in full work for a few weeks now. Of course, full off-season work means I only ride five days a week generally, which is in some ways is nice. However, my brain is so wired to riding six days a week that I tend to feel antsy and lacking on Sundays. We won't begin fitness work until January, so I'm trying to acclimate myself to the new schedule.
During the off-season, Dante and I both have things to fix. In terms of me, I am working hard on improving my dressage position, particularly my hands and lower legs. My hands like to live in my lap and my lower legs likes to do their best water-skiing impression. To help, I have dropped my stirrups while doing any and all flat work, starting the week of Thanksgiving and going through the end of December. I still intend on riding a bit without stirrups in January as well, but I need to start picking up my stirrups that month. I find it more difficult to ride with stirrups than without at this point, so I need to be sure to practice not bracing against them at the trot.
Dante is becoming confirmed in half-pass at both the canter and trot. It is more difficult for him to half-pass from left to right, especially at the trot. Each day we practice a little bit and try to get him to step under his body a bit more with his left hind, something that has always been a bit tougher for him. His half-pass from right to left is quite good and doesn't need much repetition at this point. His lead changes came extremely easily, and we work a little bit each day on him not anticipating the change, and keeping straight through them. We also have been practicing our turn on the haunches at the walk, trying to keep him moving his inside hind instead of merely pivoting on it. It improves every day.
We also have been revamping the way Dante goes between fences. I used to let him canter around however he wanted so long as I felt we had a good pace. However, I learned at Greenwood that when I do that and he gets excited, he ignores me and does his best impression of a motorbike around the turns, leaving us with awkward spots and a bad canter. Since then, we have been really working on staying round and soft in the mouth between the fences, and his canter has improved immensely. In the past week, his understanding of what I want has improved drastically and he has become incredibly responsive to my aids.
Similarly, Dante has always liked to do his best Zoolander impression and refuse to turn right in any manner that is conducive to jumping. When asked to turn right, he basically turned into a board, flung his head a bit, and cut the turn as sharp and fast as he could. Doesn't really work well for bending lines or roll backs. The week of Thanksgiving we introduced ten meter circles after every jump where there was a right-handed turn or bending line. Within two jump sessions, Dante had figured out what I wanted and has been getting better and better at staying soft and bending through right turns.
Of course, with all the changes in his canter, I started missing a bit to the fences. I don't have a natural eye for a spot, but I do have a decent learned eye. Unfortunately, whenever the canter changes, I tend to have to 'relearn' my eye. Also, because Dante is more responsive to my aids, particularly my half halts, I am having to learn to be softer with my hands. So we have been jumping more frequently than normal, but with lower heights and less fences overall, to help develop my new eye.
I am so excited about these changes in Dante and myself. I can't wait to show them off at a show after we bring it all together. First up though, XC schooling at Greenwood the weekend of January 7th, Jean Moyer dressage clinic the weekend of the 14th, and then leaving for Rocking Horse the weekend of the 21st!
(The Spanish Moss of Rocking Horse, where we'll be at the end of January!)