Ben is on summer holiday- I have committed to him some extended R&R, no strenuous training rides for at least 2-3 weeks.
However, I realized that his summer break coincided with a saddle fit appointment that I had scheduled quite awhile ago with our local Albion rep (which to summarize: the Albion that works for Ben is a killer on my hips and I just can't do it. Not even a year later). Knowing how long it takes to get these things scheduled, I decided to keep the appointment and pull Ben out for a quick ride; you know, just to make sure he A) Sound of body and B) Sound of mind.
I will admit, I did cringe a bit at the thought of riding him again. Typically, when given a couple of days off, Ben always comes back to work a bit creaky, stiff, and a wee bit grumpy. It takes a bit of work to limber up, and then he's fine.
This time, he was a bit stiff- but VERY forward. It was pretty amazing. Normally I have to remind him about the concept of being in front of my leg. So that was a nice surprise! He was also quite comfortable to ride, which was another shock. I felt as though my body was relaxed into the saddle and able to absorb the movement he offered.
So maybe the couple of weeks off was a good thing. But there is something else that has been helping me. He's chesnut, 14.3hh, and cute as a freakin button:
This little guy is a 4 yr old grade Arab (can be registered HA) owned by a friend of mine. He came back from owners who let him develop some pretty crappy herd-bound habits. I've been tasked with working with him for the next 30 days. It has been pure bliss. He's had his moments - he has tried his tricks, we've had some discussions, but boy has he been a fun little project. The best part about him is that he's smaller, and despite his cute gaits, he's very smooth to ride. He has a fantastic canter, and a very smooth trot. The result of this has been a gentle relaxation of my muscles that have been in perma-fixed mode when riding Ben. I've known this, tried to fix it, and clearly it hadn't been getting done. But it appears as though the Ying to Ben's Yang is this little guy. I am eternally grateful for it!
So what is next for Ben? I'm going to keep him in partial-work mode, the work part being trail rides and light hacks. I really want to focus on getting him over some cross rails too- so we'll do some of that. Depending on our collective mood, we'll go from there.