Friday, February 26, 2016

Don't Poke the Bear

Things have been going well at the new barn. We're currently taking weekly lessons and walking away with lots of homework.

A couple of weeks ago we had a "step up" lesson as I like to call them - one where our trainer introduces something new and thus gives us something to work on all week (month, year, etc). That lesson was all about sharpening the response to the aids- both in the up transition but also the down. Ben LOVES to trail his hindquarters, and getting him to step under himself is always a challenge. He loves to be strung out. Yesterday was the day my trainer told me to shorten my rein and ask him to carry himself higher. Boy was that hard, and while we had glimmers of goodness, it felt really new and uncomfortable for both of us! While I always knew my reins were a little long, I was comfortable and so was Ben. However, keeping my reins long was inhibiting our progress.

The crisp transitions - wowsa those were also pretty tough. Apparently Ben and I ride together like we're on some leisurely Sunday trail - we'll get to it when we get to it. Haha - both of us had to wake up and smell the coffee. For Ben, asking for that immediacy immediately brought forth a reaction, but it was the pace. We did get a couple of great up transitions from halt to trot, but a lot of them were halt to mish-mosh of pace/trot/canter. However, we ended on a great note and had a nice long cool out on a beautiful day. I thought all was well.

All was not well. Apparently we rocked Ben's world and he was not okay with it. The next few rides were a complete cluster. Ben had somehow forgotten to do anything that required being in a saddle, bridle, and with a rider on board. He was spooky, looky, tense, and reverted to pacing at just about any request. So, my plans to practice our new "stuff" quickly went out the door. I gave him a few days off. The days I did ride I kept it light - walking, turns, a couple transitions - all on a super loose rein. Zero expectations.

Thinking I just destroyed any and all progress over the last few years, I humbly told my trainer what was going on. As it worked out, I was going on a business trip and she offered to put a ride on him. I gulped and said yes, kind of nervous what the outcome of that would be.

Thursday, February 11, 2016


First weekday sunset ride- Spring is on the way!
It has only been a couple of weeks since my last post, but so much has happened in Ben's world! All good things, too!
I made the decision to move Ben up to my trainer's barn, which he moved to at the end of January. Having horses spread across 2 barns is not something I manage well, consistently. I've tried it in the past, and for the last 8 months tried it again, to no avail. With my commute to work, getting to both horses in a single evening just isn't feasible - alternating horses also gets tricky with schedules at both barns, trying to fit in a non-horse day for myself - it just wasn't happening. Additionally, Ben and I were not getting the instruction we so need. So, though more expensive, it was the right decision. The barn is pretty quiet, we get weekly lessons, and have both indoor, outdoor, and trails up in the tree farm. They also have awesome mud-free paddocks with open stalls, so turnout happens every day. Ben is super happy with this arrangement! I am super happy too being able to see and ride both horses in a single visit. Success!
Just prior to the move, I had our vet come out and take a look at him to make sure he was fit and able to increase his workload. Because nothing seemed to be visibly off, we used a neat tool called the Lameness Locator that could detect perhaps what the eye cannot see. Ben's results were reviewed by 2 vets, both came to the same conclusion that Ben is a very even, non-lame dude. So at this point he has gotten the green light to be pushed along both fitness wise and skills wise. We've added Adequan into the regimen, but for now, there is no reason or indication that we should be looking at any further diagnostics.
With that healthy check up and a couple of days to situate at the new barn, Ben and I jumped right into our new world. I could write a whole post about all the things I love about my trainer's indoor arena, but the top 3 are: mirrors, poles, and size. Having great big huge mirrors are wonderful, and infinitely helpful when riding on your own. I had no idea what I was missing! Instant feedback without having to rely on a grounds person or reviewing video whenever I was lucky enough to get some recorded. The other awesome thing is that trot and canter poles are always set up. They are super heavy and do not budge, even when a certain Standardbred knocks them. And finally - size. The place we were boarding had a really nice sized indoor for the area. This arena, though, is a full 20x60 arena. I definitely am finding the extra length to be great, and the accurate sizes have definitely helped me in shaping our 20, 15, 10 m circles. I always had to sort of guess what sizes, and while I was fairly accurate, I wasn't precise.
And so here we are, a couple of weeks into our new world, and loving it :) More to come!