Nautica and I ride in the dressage arena on average five days a week almost always with a set training “goal” in mind. Sometimes our goals are as simple as achieving bend (for the love of God) and sometimes we can push for more complicated subjects such as teeny-baby half-pass or tiny counter-canter loops. Lately, it’s been repetitive canter-trot-canter transitions on a circle with a focus on maintaining ribcage bend and softness in the contact. I would definitely call this type of training schedule high-stress on a horse even if the work is only at the training-to-first level.
For both horse and rider, particularly for an unconventional team like Nautica and me, this daily commitment is often what it takes to make consistent progress towards dressage goals. Dressage day-in and day-out can become tedious. Fortunately, Nautica has a work ethic that is tolerant of his new lifestyle. He is a very even-tempered horse and is extremely receptive to pressure. Because of his willing personality, it can become easy for me to get into a repetitive loop and “drill” him on a concept not only within a ride, but also week-to-week.
To combat this, I make sure to take time to allow for less-structured horsey time, both ridden and unmounted, to allow Nautica to decompress from the stresses of “bend” and “roundness.” While I wouldn’t call our walks out in nature stress-free just yet, they are a break from the mundane and offer a different kind of stimulation to Nautica’s brain. Other fun Nautica-enrichment activities include “jump” courses (18 inches of pure Olympic-level talent—or so we tell him), obstacle work with poles and gates, and lunging over raised cavaletti grids (still slightly stressful but there are lots of treats involved).
Nautica works hard and plays even harder and is happier and healthier because of it!
In other news…
Nautica and I participated in a mini virtual show this past week! He earned a 65.5% and third place in Training test 3. I also rode Stella, a more established-in-dressage horse, in the same test and earned a 73.4% and first place.
It’s very interesting to compare the two horses’ tests and scores. Whereas Nautica struggles with gait quality and balance, Stella has a much more natural time achieving a true, energetic working trot and balanced canter. On Nautica, I have to ride a very conservative test free of mistakes to make the score. On Stella, I can ride a bolder test, push her for more, and mistakes are more easily forgiven score-wise.
Check out the two horses’ videos below!
Next weekend is Nautica’s first ever outing as a dressage horse! We are attending our first USDF show together and we will be showing in the Intro Level. I should hopefully have a (good) update (or at the very least, a positive “learning moment” to post) after next weekend! Y’all please say a prayer, send good vibes our way, or do whatever you do. We need all the help we can get!