Thursday, March 31, 2016

So this is happening...

Sitting in this mailbox is an entry form for a dressage schooling show happening in April...with Ben's name on it! And to make matters even more exciting...we will be doing the 1-1 test! Whoa!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Tack Adjustments = Results

Things have been going well in Ben's world. Not much to report, but a couple of tack changes have taken place over the past couple of weeks. #1 was that a fitter was coming to our barn so I had his saddle looked at - we did a much needed reflock and some adjustments to the panels to make the channel wider. WOW did this ever change Ben's trot! The saddle is quite stable, it feels great as it is moulding to his back. May need to make a few tweaks in a month or so, but the change is palpable.

The other tack change is a change of bit. Yes I know, another one. Ben has been, by far, the hardest horse I've ever had to bit. Most horses I've come across have been fine with a plain snaffle- single or double jointed- eggbutt, D or loose ring. Super easy stuff, costing no more than $50. My arab mare is schooling 2nd and 3rd in a $35 Smith Worthington loose ring- bless her.

Ben, however, has a collection of tried-chewed-failed. He is a natural chewer/inspector - he will always test if something can go in his mouth, and if it fits, it gets chewed. His bit is no different. I'm pretty sure I've blogged off and on about our trials and tribulations. He gets so fixated on the thing in his mouth he cannot focus on anything else. Not in a panicky way, but think of trying to pull a child away from being mesmerized by their TV show kind of way. 

Most recently I had settled on a Myler wide & low ported eggbutt. It worked great for awhile. For the first time Ben was pushing onto the bit, not trying to suck back and chew it to smithereens. The chewing-to-grinding habit had lessened to the point of barely ever happening. Yay! I felt like we were finally able to address some training issues. And we did.

And then new ones came up. Sigh. Ben went from being tucked behind the bit & my leg to leaning on my hands quite heavily. Addressing as a training issue was working - to a point. But also, I felt like we had this really dull, heavy connection rather than a live, active, soft one. So, in another effort, enter in the Neue Schule Verbindend snaffle. Dressage Extensions has 14 day trials for their 12 mm bit. Sign me up.

Immediately I felt as if the connection was softer,  clearer, and more adjustable. Ben wasn't sneaking behind, nor was he pulling. Much easier to adjust, we had better flexions and bends. Between that and his saddle adjustments, wow the trot work has soared.

The canter, however, has suffered a wee bit. Prior to the bit change I thought we were getting somewhere with the canter- but with the new bit it seems like the confidence & ability to lean on the bit has degraded the quality of canter. At least initially. However, the past couple of rides have gone smashingly well, and I feel like we are close to where we were in the old bit.

So - the result is an overall net positive - with some things to work always. But I am liking where this is going - this boy has been so fun lately!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Working on Adjustability

Ben's training ride went well. I wasn't there to see it, but I got a text reporting that he felt great- a little stuck to the wall on the right and thus ensuing rhythm problems - but easily addressed. Counter canter and 15m circles and ending with a super trot.

Phew. I hadn't ruined my horse.

So since then, I've had a couple of lessons. Our main goal has been, and will continue to be, adjustability & suppleness through the body. We've begun to get serious about schooling the lateral movements - specifically shoulder fore, shoulder in, haunches in. Amazing how hard it is but also how much better the ride gets once we do these things! Right now it is at the walk, with a little bit of shoulder fore in the trot. Ben still gets a bit confused and will resort to pacing- his legs and body can get a bit jumbled from time to time. But he's definitely giving it his all (as he always does!) and progress is being made.

The canter is continuing to develop. Working on adjustability here too- I can get a baby lengthening and some leg yields - shallow loops are our friends :) Ben has actually shown a bit of aptitude to having changes - there have been a couple of moments in my lessons when working on the canter that he's offered them. We're not ready to go there just yet- we definitely need to confirm a few more things, but I'm wondering if by summer/fall we have something. How cool would that be?!