Last week Ben and I finally had our first lesson in ages - well over a year. Our trainer hadn't seen him since before the nose-wiener removal. On the plus side, he was full of it - tons of energy to go go go (YAY for no more breathing problems!) On the downside, he has lost a lot of condition and strength that he had. So all of the suppleness we had worked for was virtually gone, and in its place were new (and old) evasions.
We basically worked on getting clean transitions and a bit more control of the right-side, his weak side. Ben's new thing is to grab the right side of the bit, and GO - especially when rounding the short side of the arena. So step one was to move onto the quarterline as he loves to get sucked onto the wall. Step two was getting him to give us a regular, consistent speed at the walk - no speed up, slow down, chomp chomp chomp on the bit. Third was to give us some flexion on the right - respond to my right leg, respond to my fingers closing on the right rein. OMG total tune-out. "LALALALA I don't hear you!" says Bennifer. Once those things were in place- lets be real - just an exercise to be on my aids, I could then ask him for a trot and get actual real trot steps vs a mish mosh of pace-tranter-to-trot-walk-back to trot.
So yea, that was fun- not. Our homework is, well, transitions. And getting consistent walk. And responding to the aids in turn on haunches, turn on forehand. And more transitions - try to re-establish the transition within the gait, which we were lacking (either TROTTTTTTTTING immediately to the dead-man walk). Oh, and, add in trot-to-canter.
Small list, right? We've been chipping away at it all week...and as it goes some things are great one day while others are sucking, and then the next ride things are swapped the good is now bad and vice versa. For us, it is swapping the quality of gaits - if the trot feels good the canter is crap, and if the canter feels good the trot isn't great. I am hopeful though that one day we'll be able to string it all together and have one amazing ride, LOL.
Now that I think about it, I may know why my canter has gotten better and the trot has gone to the crapper. The past few rides I've gotten on Ben's case about his walk - you know it is so easy to mess up a walk so it is careful going. The problem is that Ben's walk is so lackluster, slow, behind the leg. As if he's asleep. What I am doing, is using a metronome during our warmup. The setting is low, lower than what I'm reading other people use- but my goal is to at least get a consistent rhythm to the walk, and then maybe later see about getting it to be a bit more active. But for now, it is plenty active for where he is at in his fitness level. I'm thinking that since the walk is so closely connected to the canter, that his canter has improved by proxy, LOL. The trot, admittedly, we're working just on transitions- which does improve the overall trot but it isn't like we're staying in trot for huge lengths of time.
And so we go -continuing down the path towards excellence - picking our battles one at a time, and overcoming obstacles in the process. Next week I'd like to start throwing in some cavaletti work but will do so judiciously given his level of fitness. No sense in rushing things - we're in it for the long haul.