I don't know about any of you, but when I have a bad ride it nags me. Like a three year old who missed snack time. Over and over again, it's all I can think about. How I could have rode it better, what I did wrong, how I affected my horse, what may have been bothering Moon, what W would have said if she was there...
Yesterday I ditched out on yoga and went back to the barn. I wasn't sure at first it was a good idea but I just needed to get that nagging-nelly off my shoulder.
Especially with just 9 weeks to the start of show season! I kept imagining us, our first show, him being that obstinate and us managing to trot right over the little white ring markers and wind up DQ'd our first time out. Yes, I realize we're probably not going to be in the ribbons, but I'd REALLY like to at least finish the test!
Moon actually trotted up to the fence to meet me when I arrived. Since everyone else was still in the run-in, I have to wonder if he's actually looking forward to me bringing him in and working? That or he's a foolish little pony.
I started our warm-up focusing on me. Releasing my tension, stretching and relaxing into the saddle. Thinking about my position and how it should feel. Imaging my legs wrapping around his barrel, my body aligned, my shoulders back and my seat in contact with the saddle.
Then we worked on loosening Moon. Lots of bending and flexing and changes in direction. Trot to walk to trot and such. We moved to shoulder-in at a walk and then a trot. I focused hard on not tilting my body when I applied my aids, or cocking my head in the direction I wanted him to move. The whole thing reminds me of when I was a little kid, about 5 or so and we would play our computer games with a joystick. My mom would go CRAZY because when we wanted to turn our character to the right in an exciting portion of the game, we'd actually whip our arms and the controller in that direction! It seems instinctual. If I move that way, everything will just follow...
Fixing myself up, I actually found I was better able to apply my leg aid. At a trot, his shoulder-in going right was great for a newbie and I felt like he understood what I was asking of him. After he nearly broke into canter a couple of times coming down the short side, I thought, "maybe this is where we canter off?"
When we came around again, I shoulder-in'd him into the corner and then asked for a canter depart. I got the wrong lead out of him so we made a nice 10 m circle and tried again from shoulder-in.
Guess who got the correct lead? : )
When he went to slow down, I did as W had instructed and instead of trying to drive him with my seat, I stayed where I was and just gave him a quick "bop" with my legs. I probably looked like I was trying to make snow angels on his back : P
And he SOARED forward continuing around the ring.
We stopped and I lavished praise and treats on him. What a good boy!
Some change of direction, walk-trot transitions and leg yielding later, I felt like he was ready to try again. Shoulder-in to the corner and ask...
...Correct lead!!! : )
We whizzed around the ring. He unbalanced on his corner and slowed. Quick "bop" and he picked himself up and carried on. We circled three times around the ring, making 30 m circles. He wasn't beautifully balanced and he was certainly strung out ("bop" yields us a sudden surge in power), but we were doing laps, we were on the right lead and I didn't feel like I was working hard to keep it there.
More praise and treats. Little bit of a rest and then back to the routine. I'm really seeing with Moon that continuously doing the same thing leads to resistance and irritation in him. He decides that he knows what you want and is just going to bull through it, rather then wait for you to ask. So instead I need to constantly change it up, constantly swap back and forth, left and right. Keep him paying attention to me and what I want.
We went back to the shoulder-in down the other side and as we neared the corner, "Canter!"
Around and around we went, less need for bopping at this point.
Once more on the far side, once again on the correct lead. SCORE!
I walked him out on a loose rein and then gathered him back up to try to the left.
Oh, Hello Mr. Stiff-Side.
I could FEEL that he wasn't being obstinate, he was actually struggling to do as I asked. He'd give me one or two steps of shoulder-in at the trot and you could read the tension and struggle in his body to get himself bent as I was asking. Then he'd grunt and fall down to a walk, usually moving his jaw all around and bending and distorting his neck. It was as though he almost "locks" when asked to move that way and it's uncomfortable and probably a little painful.
We kept working on softening and loosening him on the left side and while he'd reach down into the bit at a walk and into a trot, he really struggled at the exercises that required more bend out of his body. The shoulder-in frustrated him and after a couple of tries he dissolved in an irritable mess. If you can imagine a horse-hissy fit, he kinda had one. In a typical Moon-passive-aggressive I'm not listening to you sort of way : P
We tried one canter depart in that direction and he picked up the wrong lead. It was hard enough on him that I figured I wouldn't push for it after his success in the other direction. So we did one more to the right, got the right lead and I called it quits for the canter.
We finished up with lots of transitions and changes in direction to get him back to soft and listening. When he was doing a good job again I gave him a nice loose rein and he neck reined around the ring while stretching and cooling off.
So while our canter is not near perfect, I feel a sense of redemption from Sunday. To the right we're doing even better and I can actually see us making improvements and finding success at that gait in that direction in the near future. The other direction...
NOW, the question is, which tests do I do for our first show? W asked us each to pick one test to ride at our practice clinic in March and I can't decide which will be best for us. Tests A and B are very straight forward but I kinda don't think it'll be good for us since each move lasts a very long time. Tests C and D are more difficult but have a ton of changes in direction and in bend, something I could see keeping Moon both loose as well as focused.
Thoughts from anyone? Which tests would you choose??!