After 6 solid says of work including 1 lesson and 1 training ride, Ben had a much deserved 2 days off during which he got new shoes and lots of turnout time both in a large paddock and pasture.
On Saturday, I drove down to a local schooling show and got to see some pro's school their greenies. That was interesting. I also got to watch some ammy rides at intro, but did not stay for training level. I got to see those pro's interact with their students, too. The whole morning was inspiring, but also left me feeling very grateful to have the trainer that I have.
Sunday rolled on in and that meant it was time to get back to work for Team BenAlly. I fussed all morning trying to piece together a better bridle for him because I was noticing that he has started to get a hard lump on his face, right where the stupid flash attachment goes. Its never put on tight, but the flash is not built onto his bridle, and i think the extra connector piece is causing a problem. In the end I settled on his dover crown piece and padded noseband, Piper's sparkly blue Pink Equine browband, and my thinline reins. The whole thing fit much better. But now that I think about it, I may try the Jeffries crown piece since it has more padding. I dont think the matching noseband would fit him, but he might like that squishy padding behind his ears.
After I was done fussing with the bridle, I went about fussing with the saddle. I had to change the gullet plate on my Isabelle, which proved to be a challenge because the screws are older. So it was a two person job, but we got it done.
Okay, finally fetched the horse from his paddock - he was covered from head to hoof in dried mud. Tons of grooming later, my arms burning, we finally headed to the arena.
After a long warm up on hole #7 (stirrups) - during which I made sure to keep him at an active, but loose rein walk with his head stretching down and not giraffing about. He loves to do the giraffe impersonation - but he gets very choppy and trips, and ultimately much sulkier about contact. So new game plan is to never allow him to do it.
Once I felt like my left side stretched about as far as it could, I put my stirrups back on hole #5, got an active walk on contact, and then started doing trot work. I was focusing mostly on activating my hips, which hurts like hell to start, but also looking up, and not down at my horse.
Everything is getting easier. It could be because his last ride was done by our trainer, so there was still some magic pro aura left on the horse. But despite that, I felt like my riding was better.
Because things were going so well, I decided to try to ride Training Level Test 1...mostly to memorize it, but also to see where our big problem areas are.
Over all, it was ugly - but no one died. My biggest issue in our small walled-in arena is getting Ben down the centerline - we were missing by about 10 feet or more. Our arena is exactly 60 feet wide, but ends rather abruptly with straight walls. This makes the arena much smaller, and hard to ride on a large boat-shaped horse.
The good news is that I do know the test, and we were able to do a lot of the movements- including the stretchy circle. But we do have a lot to work on. I am not one to ride a test over and over, but I will run through it once or twice a week just to see where we are, and to make sure my brain is functioning correctly.
During our cool down I put my stirrups back down on #7, and continued with our walk-exercise of stretching low not high. I also focused more on my position, and even worked a little bit on that loose trot - and felt really good that I could actually stay with my horse in the long stirrups.