So Tuesday I finally got to ride again this week. Thanks snow for making the rings even worse than if it rained! Val was really good on Tuesday despite not working all three-day weekend. I set the goal to make his trot really expressive and ridable for the day and rode towards that. He tried to convince me to not ride him truly into the connection but after a swift “discussion” he finally put his hind end under himself and started to work for me. His 10 meter circles were forward and balanced with good expression that after I worked both directions in the trot, I called it quits for the day. I warmed up the canter but never even pushed him to really work it – our warm up is still in and out of collection (transitions within the gaits), loose lines with bending both directions, and even the occasional schooling pirouette. Sometimes I can stop myself before the work goes sour – it’s a great feeling when I end on a high note.
That high note quickly dissolved in our lesson on Wednesday, however. It wasn’t so much that Val was bad, but he was stiff and working against me. The cold and the wind this winter have been just another layer upon the unfortunate weather – circumstances beyond my control and just another thing I put out of my mind as I layer up and extra two or three times. Most of the time the big man works better in the cold than the hot, but with such inconsistent riding I have been cutting back on his alfalfa in take. That, in turn, has negatively affected his energy levels and his ‘sparkle’ under-saddle. But to waste quality hay isn’t something I can afford doing either; it’s all a balancing act.
Mom ended up coming along this week and she shot some video of the ride. The cold ate the battery and so she didn’t get a lot of the work but it is a better reflection of his current gaits and movement than the last video. The quality of the movements has changed drastically and his collection is really starting to develop as he carries more with the hind end.
You can see his flying changes he was throwing everywhere. My horse likes to take the things we teach him and use them as evasions later on – its a star quality of his. When we started to school the half-steps of passage/piaffe work he did the same with that. He’s like a talented child, one who uses his gift for evil and not for good! His counter canter was all but impossible to ride. I finally got it out of him but the silly child was taking those changes every time he thought he could get away with it. The half pass quality suffered from the obvious lack of submission in the ride but I will take that quality on a bad day because his good days are phenomenal. His shoulder in’s were wonderful though – the high point of the trot work. His halts weren’t quite underneath himself enough, but it was because as much as we were riding forwards he was still behind the aids. It’s a tough line on Val: get him reactive enough that he things with me, but not ahead.
After a tough lesson, I figured today would be equally as rough. Tricky boy – he was as perfect as could be! He was forward and expressive today with ease. After yesterdays disaster with the counter canter, it was a sticking point that had to be accomplished today. You would never have known he was such a poop about it – perfect three loop counter canter serpentines! After I warmed up the medium button, we did a little schooling half-pass each direction, only going for the change when the line was perfect. His right-to-left change is the inconsistent one and after a few diagonal change lines I decided we would work that until he gave me a really good one. We ran a pattern of three-loop serpentine (no change of lead) to medium/extended down the long side, to short diagonal with a change & repeat. He was wonderful and got it in two. We even played with a line of tempi’s today – that is how good he was!
There was a slight motorcycle incident which almost got me dumped, but who remembers that? Hick town, USA – I love thee so!
His trot work was just as good and I am left with a good feeling that we might actually be ready for a show, for once! I am going to take a line from a wonderful 80’s one-hit-wonder and say “Relax, don’t do it!” and try to not stress out when we have a less than 100% ride. If the Boss believes in us (he must since he put his name on my Declaration of Intent and now I actually can claim him!), then all that is left for me to do is believe.
And weather gods: thank you so much for giving us a week of sunshine! My brain really needed it! I actually rode in a t-shirt today and everything! :D