My lesson last night was quite fun!
Ben started out, surprise surprise, behind the aids. Lazy, sleepy, with his well known "do I have to?" routine.
Trainer had me work on transitions from walk to trot to wake him up, but this time with the added fun of keeping him in my hand. The fun part about Ben is that you KNOW when things go very wrong, or very right - it is quite clear. If he is not on the aids, if he is bracing, when you ask for an up transition he'll want to twirl his head, jump into a pace for a few steps, and then trot. It kinda feels like getting an old jalopy started - spurts, sputters, backfires. However, if you can get him soft - loosen his back, ask for bend, and then apply leg, you'll get a nice unbraced upward transition free of the pace. There really is no grey area with my standardbred!
From there we worked on even more transitions, circles of various sizes, and then canter.
And then somewhere in there my trainer got me doing transitions from walk to canter, and walk to trot then to canter in a faster sequence. Working on precision, and timing of the aids, keeping him on those aids. Then she had me start counting stides. Ask for canter, down to walk - walk 5, ask for canter, rinse and repeat.
Doesn't seem like a big deal, but this is a big milestone for me. We've moved beyond the "ask when it feels right" stage - which translates to "get your shit together and sometime, in the next century, preferably sometime before A, ask for canter." We're entering the stage where my trainer expects us to stay together for longer than 30 seconds thus allowing us to be a little more accurate in our work.
The exercise sounds easy - but its not, especially at this stage. Keeping us together is hard work, nevermind preparing for the next steps, which you need to keep in mind because everything happens so fast. We did it well a few times- but we also sucked a bunch- and it was all on me. Apparently I can't multitask well....yet.
We didn't ride very long at all, but boy were Ben and I a hot sweaty, steamy mess.
During my coolout I had a flashback to a moment in the summer where I was watching my friend school this very same exercise with her gelding. I remember looking on and being completely jealous but also quite certain that it would take Ben and I 2-3 years to get to the point where we'd be capable of doing what she and her horse were doing. Turns out 2-3 years was really 2-3 months - not too shabby.