Of sheer awesomeness:) Took the muffin out to Patchwork yesterday. Again, he was quiet, quiet, quiet. Put him in the crossties, and he just stood there half asleep. ALMOST talked myself out of not taking the horses since it rained all night Monday night, and was raining Tuesday morning as well. I say horse(s) because I also took little sis' Star so I could give a kidlet a lesson on her.
Of course we had to lesson in the covered since the outdoor was a soupy mess. It was a little on the chilly side, but not too bad:) As per usual, Janet began with critiquing our trot. I feel like we ALWAYS get hung up on it, but the goal is always different. Janet's horses move BEAUTIFULLY. They all have huge, slow, sweeping gaits. My horse does NOT. He has short, quick gaits. Just the way he's built ... or so I thought. I FINALLY achieved the task of big and slow and in a frame. Wow.
WAY more leg (which I knew), and WAY more hand than what I have been riding him with. The contact is the crucial thing (after leg, of course). I just have NOT been riding him with nearly enough contact. Every time I'd be trotting around, Janet would holler "Shorten your reins!" Hmm. I was getting somewhere with him when Janet asked if her daughter, superstar pro rider Lauren, could hop on. In the earliest days, I did NOT want Lauren to ride him because I wanted to see what I could do with him, NOT professional riders/trainers. Where he is now, I'm seeking that consistency; that NEXT level. The clean upward transitions, the clean, precise lead changes. At this point, I would be EXCITED to see a pro on him, just to get some additional feedback.
So, Superstar Lauren got on, took a feel of his mouth, put her leg on, asked for the trot, and WOW. I have NEVER seen a more beautiful trot out of this horse. Think reaching, slow, head down, mouth CLOSED, steady neck. She went both ways, cantered, jumped, popped off a few lead changes, and Janet told her to stop so I could get back on. Lauren then laughed, said how much fun she was having, then hopped off. Her input was that he is SUPER easy. She had thought he would fight her ... he didn't. She was pleasantly surprised that she could actually put her leg on him, and he simply ... went forward. Not jiggy, not unhappily; in fact, he was QUITE happy:)
The diagnosis? He is READY for the "next level". I have "done a beautiful job of doing the hard part; his foundation is fantastic". He's ready to be show ring 'finished' now. I have practically zero experience actually 'finishing' a horse. I have ridden tough ones, young ones, green ones ... all to the point that Tiki's at now. And then they've been sold, and I started over with another one. I learned that my idea of contact, and the REAL idea of contact are 2 totally different things. Janet and Lauren assured me that I will not get him behind the bit if I actually take a FEEL of his mouth. It's what he NEEDS. I need to quit being "wishy washy", sit UP, and tell him how I want him to go. Hacking around on a loose rein is great every once in a while ... not every day. I now feel how he is SUPPOSED to feel. I need to recreate yesterday; I KNOW I can! It was a fantastic day, and I'm so grateful for my wonderful boss and her superstar daughter. Worked for a solid hour and a half; the time just FLEW by!
As a total aside, I asked for the 2'6 vertical to go up to 3' for my 'last time' through the little course we did. As I cantered up to it, I literally thought how small it looked, lol. Guess that happens when you jump a solid 3'3 coop, and ramped stacked wood thing:) We missed just a hair to it, but I sat still, he stayed in a slow, beautiful rhythm, and caught just a slight deep spot to it. Janet was happy with it, though, so we quit there. Supposed to be beautiful the rest of the week, so I will be working to recreate my "real horse" gaits!