Ben and I had an interesting ride last night.
It all started with a change of routine. Our normal tack up area was taken, so I opted to groom and tack up in his stall. From as long as I can remember, Ben gets a little nervous and squiggly when I do anything with him tied in his stall. I think he feels claustrophobic - it seems deeply ingrained, but definitely reminded me that I have to help him with this- because when we go to horse shows, he's not going to have the luxury of a spacious grooming bay.
Things of note- left hind shoe was missing. Great. Also, I realize we were fast approaching 8pm, and not only did I really want to go home and go to bed, our trainer was coming at 7am to ride. So in less than 12 hours, Ben was going to have to work really hard. That said, in my mind, this was going to be a quick 20 minute ride.
Once I felt like I was all stretched out, I started the trot portion of our warm up. Things felt...not right. Was it the missing shoe? Lack of concentration? Bad riding? The desire to head twirl was at an all time high, and he was even a little bit grumpy again approaching that far door. I just kept keepin on, doing circles and bends and hoped he'd quit. He kind of did, but something still just didnt feel right. Our transitions both up and down sucked, bending sucked, moving sucked - everything felt so difficult. He wanted to either curl on the bridle or twirl his head - basically anything but keep a steady contact.
At this point, I just said to myself, eff it. I'm not sure what possessed me, but I decided to try cantering. First to the right. Our first transition blew. Our second one was better. But there was still something not right. I just kept trying. I looked up, booted him into it, and got an even better canter. The quality of canter was getting with the better transitions. Finally I got something decent. Switched directions, and tried again, from a walk. We got a fantastic one. We did it again, and got it.
I then brought him back to do trot work, and it was SOOO much better. All of his head twisting, poor transitions, were gone. I could sit up and post easily. Everything felt right. I then realized what I had been missing...my "go" button. He was behind the leg, behind my aids. Something I did in the canter work fixed it.
With that I ended our session, and he had a long cool out walk. I brought him to the wash rack, cold hosed his legs, and put him up for the night. As I type this he's probably working his butt off, but will have the next 36 hours to rest up before our lesson.