I've known for some time now that Tristan's best dressage scores would come not from flashy movement, or superior training but from consistency and accuracy.
Last night, we took some great big steps toward achieving a consistent forward rhythm throughout our ride. I started out focusing hard on keeping him relaxed through his back right from the first step, and slowly, slowly ramped up his walk work. In all, we had easily 20 minutes of walk work in which I gradually asked him for more, took in more rein, and stepped him through his hind end more.
That paid off almost immediately in the trot. As T. commented, Tris has definitely been flashier and moved better, but he's never maintained such a solid commitment to the bridle from his hind end throughout. He had good activity and maintained a sense of forward. I was trying to keep two things in mind for my leg: one, not to nag, but instead to be a constant presence and to make individual leg action purposeful and quick; two, to anticipate his ducking out moments and remind him that he had to maintain, not back off, when asked for more bend and more roundness.
The payoff were a dozen or so strides at a time, in a few separate instances, in which all of a sudden the activity and spring and swing in his hind end increased exponentially. I was a bit caught by surprise, as I think he was: all of a sudden there was a lot more to deal with. I tried to mostly stay out of his way, keeping the reins very light and keeping my leg on while not asking him to do any more than what he was doing.
We ran through our test - Beginner Novice A - for Hitching Post this weekend, and T.'s only criticism was that I'd botched some of my figures, and made roundish squares instead of proper circles.
After the ride, I filled up the water buckets for my trailer and spent some time organizing my new travel trunk. Tonight, I have a shopping list at Dover, I'll organize my trip paperwork, and create a final packing/schedule list, and tomorrow, we'll have a conditioning ride and I'll finish prepping my trailer.