Today was the second Ride-A-Test clinic I have done at Southern Oaks this winter. It was rainy and damp but we had riders all day with a good range of tests from Introductory Test B to Second Level Test 1. Marsha Saap (owner/trainer of Southern Oaks) rode three mustangs, Onyx, Cobra, and Oconuco at Training Level. Each of these mustangs was a part of the Extreme Mustang Makeover competition, competing in a national competition after only 90 days training. She also rode the only Second Level test of the day on Doubletaire, an Oldenburg gelding that was her former breeding stallion.
We had a 3 year old mare, Chelsea, that really liked to step over the chain fence during her warm-up. During the clinic session I had her rider, Ali, keep the mare on the quarterlines, doing figure-eights and serpentines within the quarterlines so she wasn't able to step out of the ring again, creating a bad habit.
It was a chilly day, gloomy day so some of the horses were a little tense. When a horse gets tight and "jiggs" in the free walk it can be difficult to maintain a clear walk rhythm. I told Marsha to think she was riding through molasses and drag the horse's feet slowly to help maintain the relaxation. It worked very well and the horse did not fuss on his diagonal. It is better to have a clear, slow walk with some stretch and get a 6 rather than have an energetic march but keep breaking to the trot and receive a 4. Smart riders and trainers will work really hard on the coefficients of their dressage test. In Training Level Test 1 the free walk and the stretchy trot are multiplied by two. This is very positive, it shows that the training is correct and the horse really reaches through his topline.