Now that I have been riding the BDH for roughly a month, I have a much better idea of his strengths and weaknesses on the flat. For later comparison, I think it would be interesting to chronicle our starting point together.
Jack has three quality gaits- i.e, a 4 beat walk, balanced trot, and an engaged 3 beat canter. I can’t tell you how many bad canters I saw while shopping, and so this most basic of criteria was actually quite important to me in seeking a dressage partner. Anyways. The best way to document his abilities is by gait.
Jack is a fairly forward thinking horse, until it comes to the walk. It’s obvious that the walk is not much more than a ‘break’ to him, and so he’s quite good at moseying in this gait. I am working on reminding him that he’s still working, and over-emphasizing my following hand and getting him forward. When he’s using his neck and actually walking with purpose, he has an 8 walk, but man do you have to work for it at this point in time. Meanwhile, transitions down to the walk tend to have that horrid ‘splat’ quality, so thinking forward into the downward transition is also a point of concentration for us.
The trot is probably Jack’s best gait right now. He’s fairly balanced, though tends to lean on the right shoulder in both directions. Our main focus right now is encouraging him to reach out to the bit, but I imagine the trot is going to come along the fastest in the scheme of things.
Jack has a good quality canter right now, but man is it green. Those giant shoulders of his are his best bet at balance, and it takes some work to convince him to sit and balance from back-to-front and not the other way around. So while longitudinal and lateral balance are both an issue for him at the moment, we’re focusing most on the lateral balance. The fact that his canter is huge is also a little tricky- it’s easy for his body to just run away with him, and surprise us both. Keeping it organized can be like riding a fine line between breaking into the trot or getting flat, long, and running. All the baby problems, in the body of a 9 year old!