My goals for myself this week were two fold: 1.) Stop using the dressage saddle to avoid posting (Ezhno’s wider than Belle is by a good margin, so it takes a whole new set of thigh muscles to post his trot and I have to focus on keeping my leg back underneath myself while I rise and fall); and 2.) Kill my fear of cantering Ezhno (AKA ride through his trot-canter transitions over and over again until my nerves went away).
But first, on Monday Belle and I were working on a grid of three jumps: a 2’0″ vertical coming out of the corner, one stride to a cross rail, and then four or five strides to a 2’0″ oxer. It’d been a couple weeks since I jumped anything more than cross rails, but I focused on counting my strides out of the corner and pushing my weight down through my heels. Soon enough the jumps were feeling very easy—even when we switched directions and I had to come out of the corner to the oxer (a situation that’s caused me grief before). My position felt 100% solid!
After my lesson I pulled Ezhno away from his pasture time and we worked on his walk-trot and trot-walk transitions. We got into a couple of small fights about his lazy downward transitions. Then we did a lot of active trotting (with me in the Crosby so that I had to post). We went over the ground rails from our jumping lesson (including the flower box filler, which Ezhno didn’t even blink at), and had a good ride. He was sweaty afterwards, so I took him into the wash rack… and he turned around in it, something he’s been unwilling to do thus far! 🙂
On Tuesday I got down to the nitty gritty and killed the canter fear, plus worked on my posting. We even got a whole lap at the canter, and the Trainer explained why his trot-canter transitions are so wonky: his former owners were riding him in a head setter rigging that went from his noseband to his cinch to artificially keep his head low, and now that he doesn’t have that to brace off of he’s fumbling his way through the process of having to naturally balance himself during his departures.
Wednesday was our private lesson with the Trainer. I’m leaving the fight over laterals for when he goes into training this coming week, so we focused on our canter transitions and encouraging forward motion instead. I rode him with a lot of leg and we tackled his problem picking up the left lead (he gets it ~25% of the time) via a couple of different tactics that were designed to free up his left shoulder and encourage it to lift. Once he was in the canter the Trainer had me physically lift his head up—he needs to learn how to balance his hindquarters underneath himself before we can even think about approaching the idea of a frame. Once his head was up (and he was more coordinated because of it) we threw in some very large circles, too. When it was clear he was mentally fried, we ended with some showmanship on the ground.
We spent Thursday‘s ride practicing what we’d learned in our lesson—or at least attempting to! He was much more willing to lift his head and balance, but his left lead was nearly impossible to get no matter how I seemed to set him up. At some point I gave up on getting the left lead under saddle and took him out to the round pen instead, where we worked on his left lead via lunging. I told the Show Buddy that I was going to spend the rest of my life competing in walk/trot classes only. 😛
Friday went slightly better. We did a short, targeted ride in the (very empty) arena. His right lead went great and then I challenged him to pick up the left lead. We got it once and then I dismounted and took him outside, where I mounted up from a log so that we could head out to the track/obstacle course. We walked all the way around the track by ourselves, and he did a great job (even by the scary corn field that rustles in the wind right alongside the far end of the track).
I planned on having him take Saturday off, but my good friends Missy and Merri (who run a podcast called Fake Geek Girls, which you should check out if you’ve got any interest in podcasts and pop culture) wanted to come out and meet him, so I saddled him up, made sure his brain was securely inserted between his ears, and then led both of them around the arena a couple of times. He’s definitely not lesson horse material, but he seemed pretty content to provide pony rides. (He was less content to have to actually work afterwards, at least until he gave me that much sought after left lead and we took him back to the cross ties and smothered him with treats.)
I have a lot to say about bringing my non-horse friends out to the barn for a full tour, so expect another post all about that in the next few days.
We took Sunday off so that I could spend my day at the mall/getting ice cream/in bed with a migraine—which I’m sure he’ll appreciate when he realizes he starts training with the fabulous Ready to Ride this week.