Ben has taken the last week pretty easy- standard protocol post-hock injections. He had the rest of last week off, and then we picked back up on Saturday for a quick ride. Sunday off, back at it on Monday.
The Saturday ride was okay. But we didn't do much, I intentionally left it very very light. The thing that stuck out the most was that the left canter felt loads better than it has.
The Monday ride, on the other hand: ICK BLECH BARF GROSS. Ben was just not on his game. Everything felt pretty icky. I began to question if the hock injections did anything, because it sure didn't cure our ills. Ben was sluggish, stiff through his topline, heavy on the bridle, and really just blew off every.single.aid.
I decided to focus just on our transitions, and mainly the down-transition. Boy was it hard. Ben decided my outside rein was not something he needed to care about. Leg aids? Nah. I actually had to get quite strong on the down transitions a couple of times, just so he would at least register them. And he did, and they got lighter. I was very careful not to drill anything, but I was just going for a decent response. And once I got it, we ended it, because what happens next is never any fun to deal with.
There have been a handful of these rides in my history with Ben. For whatever reason, he is in checked-out mode. And it sometimes takes strong aids to wake him up - where I am asking him to respond to an aid - go up, come down, turn, whichever. And then from there, he usually goes into tension mode - drops the bridle, over-reacts to my leg, gets antsy. Its like he is sleeping and then I startle him awake, and then he is overly sensitive the entire time. These rides are not pretty, they feel horrible, and they are disheartening. I wish I knew why and thus having a better way to address it. Thankfully they are rare, and I suspect lots of riders go through something like this, but I always walk away feeling pretty awful about everything.
So then on Tuesday we had our lesson - lo and behold he was better, like the day prior never happened. The transitions clicked, the outside rein was there. We worked on a lot of trot without having the do much warm up in canter and my trainer thought his trot quality looked much improved. We kept it short and sweet knowing this was to be a light riding week.
Back at it yesterday, Wednesday. Initially, our first few minutes felt like we were going to go down the road of Monday. My heart began to sink. But then, just after a few minutes of warm up, POOF - magically he was with me. Right there. On the aids. Everything lightened, got sharper. His canter felt amazing - rocked back and powerful, on both leads. His trot had springs. We did some halt-trots. And at one point he kept trying to offer half-canter, and so I changed the plan and let him offer it to me for real. He nailed it on the first one, so we ended there.
What a nice ride that was, wasn't more than 25 minutes, but it restored hope in an otherwise miserable start to the week.
Its a reminder- progress is not linear. We all have good days and bad. Now to figure out how to best handle those bad days, because I do feel like I am doing a crappy job in that area.