Today was Johnny's dressage lesson at school! After my Hunter class, I went back to the barn and got him all ready to go. A had so kindly agreed to haul him the 15 minutes to the LEC barn and so we loaded up and headed off. John was such a champ, well...he's always a champ really. One of the best traveler's I've ever dealt with. No matter what kind of trailer, he just kind of looks at it, signs "Ok" and lumbers on. He doesn't rock or paw in the trailer, he just stands quietly until we get where we are going and he can lumber back off the trailer. He must have been tired today because he practically fell asleep in the wash stall at the school barn. A helped me saddle him up and we headed to the outdoor arena where B, our trainer (and local judge) was waiting. The dressage ring was set up and Johnny took a good sniff at it when we first got to the ring. He smelled it, licked it and bit it before deciding that it was a perfectly acceptable piece of equipment. From that point on he never looked at it again. We warmed up slowly under B's watchful eye and she watched as we trotted around on a lose rein before she started to work with me. She immediately saw Johnny's left stifle weakness and classified his A.D.D-ness as an actual evasion to using his right side, which is something that I never thought about before. He really does only counter-bend to the right....B suggests lots of slow trot work to make him really flex his joints while keeping him straight and relaxed so that he strengthens his stifles and hocks while letting go with his top line. I told her that we've been working on some gymnastics jumping which seems to be helping stretch his top line. She agreed that gymnastics, slow trotting and hill work would be the fastest things to help him improve. "He's a really big sweet heart" B commented. "He wants really badly to do what you want...he's just not always sure what that is and when it gets hard he wants to try twenty other options, but he never get frazzled or mad, just unsure. You probably wouldn't get great dressage scores for movement...not yet at least, but you would get high marks for submission." Although Johnny isn't the typical warmblood dressage horse that B is used to, she did admit that he looked nothing like a Standardbred and that he was very cute with a great personality. I ended our lesson with a little left and right lead canter work. John cantered both leads like a pro! After the lesson, I called my old trainer K because I was a little confused about where to go with Johnny's training from here. B suggested slow work, but in my Hunter class M always tells us that the horse must go forward before it can balance back. K suggested a four day rotational training schedule including both aspects: A day for slow work, lateral work, forward work and jumping followed by a day off. This sounds like a reasonable rotation schedule to me. I may update it a little when we get home and can do some hacking and hill work. I will probably add back in the 1/2 hour hacks after each ride that Jimmy Wofford suggests for conditioning horses.
This Saturday we are heading to Chagrin Valley Farms for a hunter/jumper schooling show. I don't plan on showing, probably just schooling the course in the morning. If he is really good I might put him in the 18" hunters because the jumpers only go down to 2'6," which by the way, did I mention that Johnny jumped 2'6" last night!?! Go him!! Tomorrow he gets a day off to de-stress!