So, I gave my cross country rock star Monday off, and decided on Tuesday that since I was riding the Princess in draw reins to conserve my life, it was time to slap the draw reins on the Tiki man and REALLY have a good, solid flat day. As an aside, I have made the coolest draw reins. They USED to literally be yellow nylon boat rope that I tied onto the ring in the center of my girth. I have upgraded to a poly braided rope (exactly like a lead rope, but a smaller diameter) and tied snaps on to the ends. Voila! Instant draw reins.
He felt very stiff, and like he hadn't had a good flat school in awhile. Hmmm ... he HASN'T had a good flat school in awhile;) Picked up the trot, and it was quick and choppy, and he was the definition of going nowhere fast. Tapped him behind with my crop (since I'm SURE Jeff Cook is oldschool and would like everyone to have a crop and spurs, I've been forcing myself to get used to carrying a crop again), and I succeeded in making his feet move even FASTER, wow! Anyway, after some circles, flexing him into my knee both ways, and some transitions, he finally settled into a decent rhythm. Cantered, and he felt REALLY forward for some reason. Cantered a few circles, schooled a lead change, and just felt like I was PHYSICALLY holding him up. I hate draw reins, I really do, but I do think they help to get him to remember how to flex well at the poll.
Cantered a little course of poles on the ground. I felt like I arm wrestled him straight after every single one. He got quicker to every pole, and just wanted to motorcycle around the corners. Good Lord. By the time I called it a day, my arms were aching, but I felt OK about the ride. That's obviously the eventing challenge. The horses that have a blast galloping through the woods and jumping big fences NOW have to focus and remember their "ring manners" and go softly and carefully around a stadium course. He'll get there:)
Today was a COMPLETELY different story, and hence, the lightbulb moment. I was reading C-Horse eventing's blog a few days ago, and she was talking about the elusive chase of self carriage, and how she preaches about it to her clients and students, but then promptly forgets about herself and lets her horse lean on her like crazy. Uh duh, what had I JUST DONE yesterday? Totally held him up and NEVER let him go, of course. So, today I had the 'just let GO' quest. And let me just say, for the record, letting go WORKS. My horse was so lovely, so soft, so willing, and so flexible today I just wanted to cry. His trot work was so lovely; rhythmic, fluid, and forward but not fast. I worked on collecting (easy), and extending (darn near impossible), and felt like he made a really great effort. Did LOTS of circles, focusing on HALF HALTING and NOT holding him up through the circle. Wow, what a difference! Performed some lovely turns on the forehand, had some kicka$$ canter transitions, and overall felt like my horse was just a lovely little rubberband.
Did a Practical Horseman exercise (but with a pole instead of a jump). Set a pole on "X", near the end of the ring. Cantered a circle around it several times, then cantered a circle over it, working on maintaining his shape and pace. It was so nice. SO nice. Again with the half halts and NOT holding him up, and he was just amazing ... in BOTH directions, yay! By this time, he had worked up quite a nice sweat:) What a good boy. Where I had poles yesterday, I set up a 2'9 vert, and his first ever bright blue barrel jump. I layed it down in the center of the standards, and placed a pole over it. It was 2'6. I let him see it, and he didn't seem too terribly concerned. Cantered through a bounce to a 1 (low cavs) as my warmup, then cantered in to the barrel jump with my brain ready to use the crop on approach if I felt him back off to it. Totally unnecessary, because he hopped right over it, no problem. Worked on my new found resolve to half halt, and did NOT hold him up through the turn. I just went back and forth in a figure 8 pattern over the 2 jumps, working on seeing a distance, maintaining my rhythm, half halting, and getting a flying change if needed. When I quit, I had only gotten a little deep once, and he jumped like a star.
Gave him a nice liniment bath since he worked so hard, and plan to do a nice, easy day of hills tomorrow.:)