Monday, July 25, 2016

Are We Ready? Roller Coaster of Daily Changes

Maybe I should start blogging every day to keep up with the constant shift of Ben's development.  The latest and greatest is that on Thursday last week, Ben was a bit sore on his right front - he was unwilling to have a clean jumpy canter transition. The overall quality was not so good. So then investigating the trot work, we could immediately see the same issue at the trot. Quickly called it a day, and he had Friday off. We think he likely tweaked something when he "played Arabian" out in his field. A photoshoot was happening for another horse and Ben was certain it was he that needed to flag his tail and run around like a turkey - for far longer than called for, I might add.

On Saturday, he was feeling much better. Ride was short and sweet but clear canter transitions and decent leg yields. Sunday was even better. Today and Wednesday he has off.

On Friday this week we leave for our annual Benefit Show. Ben didn't go last year, or the year prior due to his nose issue and lay up time. But he's back for the 10th anniversary show :) I'm super excited because the show is being held at a newer venue and the footing is supposed to be divine. Plus, it is only a short drive from home which means I don't have to camp and be stinky all weekend!

On Saturday we've got a long day of main ring flat classes - halter, showmanship, walk/trot and walk/trot canter, and trail classes. Crazy, I can take my standardbred in the canter classes now (or so I think, LOL)! He's even signed up for Advanced English Pleasure. I'm not entirely sure that he'll be fit enough to endure all the classes I signed up for, so I will likely pick and choose a couple to scratch from.

Sunday is Dressage. We're signed up to do 1-1 and 1-2. I was hoping to be ready for 1-3, and I think we could probably squeak it out but he's going to be a tired lil' Standardbred. So we're keeping it to the first 2 tests in the level.

Oh...and did I mention we're also doing the costume class on Saturday night? Yes folks, be prepared for some fun pictures!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

2 Week Check In...Are Things Still Good?

Why yes, yes they are! I've had this crazy fear that I'd get on Ben one day and all that we sorted out that one fateful day. That maybe it was just a momentary blip, that everything would slip back into our "normal" way of going and doing.

Nope, I think it is fair to say we have a new normal. This normal is one in which I say "hey Ben, lets canter" and he says "sure okay I can do that" and we canter...and canter, and canter...and keep cantering until I say "hey Ben lets change it up and walk"...


I can work on our canter. I can play with it. We can circle, go straight, do leg yields and loops. I can ask him to half halt and take jumpier steps. I do not feel like I am just a passenger and that my aids are drowned out by white noise.

His strength and confidence is growing. We've been playing with voltes - almost a spiral in to a smaller circle then canter out...and wow how that helps to get the jump.

The canter is FUN. Yes, FUN.

Now for the not so good part....our trot has gone to hell, with its handbasket. In addition to doing all the canters, we've also been trying to pepper in some more shoulder-in. And that, my friends turns out to be a big mind-f*** for my dear gaited friend. He tries. He gets into position. If he can get onto my outside rein he can sometimes get a few steps in. But much of the time, I ask and he positions his body, and falls into the pace. And then from there on, walk or halt to trot = pace instead.

So yea. One thing gets awesome another thing gets a little less-awesome. We have our work cut out for us. I have lost focus/put less focus on the trot. I need to fix that. I know I can get it back, but I'm going to need a little help in doing so. And I will rejoice when the day comes when lateral work doesn't entirely screw the pooch.

Friday, July 8, 2016

It is Always the Rider

As I look back on my blog posts to review our struggles and triumphs, I have come to realize a couple of truths:

 #1 Anything I've asked Ben to do, he's figured out how to do. It might take longer than the average bear, but he's done it. He has never said NO, I CAN'T.
#2 No matter how long it takes for us to do something, it is always under my influence to either make-or-break it. That means all of our successes, AND all of our shortcomings.

A few days ago, actually the day after my last blog post, I went out to ride. I have had fitness on my mind - mainly because I signed us up for this show at the end of the month, and I want to make sure we're both in the best shape possible to make it through the weekend. I've also been examining (over and over and over) my routine with Ben, mainly stuck on this Day 1 ride and how to make it less-awful.

I felt like I was really getting somewhere with that last ride. And I do think it helped a ton. But you know what? There were still issues on Day 2. Day 1's ride did not make Day 2 any better. In fact, Ben was a slug on day 2. It was if all he had to say was "wow, this is super easy, thanks for lightening my workload!" As much as it helped us, it also backfired a bit. I put too muck stock in it.

I was carrying a lot of the load in our relationship. I was the one constantly being pulled on, jerked on, stopped on - coming away drenched in sweat and happy when I got a mediocre response that I took to be his best effort. Things came to a head for me when I asked for some canter and while he did it, he kept dropping into a trot. I realized then how chaotic our canters are - I am so consumed in doing a million things to try to keep him going that I can't actually work on the damn canter. In the space of what was probably a second or two, so many of my rides, struggles, etc flashed through my head. I lost it. Not in a ragey kind of way, but in a deeper way. I realized right then that things had to change, and change immediately. We have been at this for literally years, and why are we still struggling with the same damn thing? No more.

No, I did not beat my horse in a fit of anger - there was no anger - there was clarity. In that moment, I knew I had to expect more of him - and to do that, I had to ride. Really ride. Throw all the mental BS out the window and get to the task at hand. Talk about being truly centered. It was not fluffy. It was not harsh. It was just very black and white - zero gray area.

And so we cantered. And cantered. I didn't care how ugly or pacey it was, where his head was. I just sat there and expected him to keep going and to carry me. Do not change gaits. He dropped, and rather than asking him to come back down and try again, nope, right back up into the canter from where he was. He kicked out. He bucked. I sat and asked. Sort it out, you can do it. Figure out where your legs are. He had to own it. No excuses for either of us.

And what do you know, he figured it out. He CAN canter without dropping to a trot after a lap or a circle. I was preventing him from realizing that. He had no idea it could be done, because I never supported him in trying to do it. I was blocking him. It was me, the rider.

Our relationship changed that day - for the better. It took me realizing I had to take responsibility for US.  It has been a week since this moment, and I can tell you that we have, for certain, turned a corner. I can actually work on the canter. I can collect it, extend it. I can do counter canter loops. I can just...canter.

I cannot change who Ben is- I cannot go in and edit his genetic code and make him an elastic moving warmblood with springs for hooves. No, I cannot do that, obviously. But what I can do, is influence the body he has, to make it fitter, more elastic, and better moving. Ben CAN. We're on a different page of our book, together.