*My Internet went bust yesterday while I was writing the below blog - this is a Sunday post*
Just look at this sky! Today was the first day of true all-day sunshine since the Snow Age came in November. It was fabulous. Suzanne did one of her best sessions to date which I must mention. One main reason: Rosie's mouth remained closed, relaxed and frothy - she tends to open it and gape in response to rider's wrist stiffness and too much hand work/incorrect rein aids which we are working on.
After some thought I went back to longer walk warm up with her at the beginning, then letting the trot work unfold slowly taking into account the mare's conformation, age and current abilities and it worked a treat today. We've been experimenting with lots of other warm ups, including earlier trot long and low but due to her conformation, use of the body and schooling level it just doesn't suit her at the beginning of the session. In the end, 20 minutes walk with plenty going on, moving sideways and controlling the weight on her shoulders from inside to outside, 1 minute long breaks on loose rein, short leg-yields in straight lines and on circles plus transitions proved to be the winner.
Experimenting fairly with and learning from a "less-than-a-perfect horse" is one of the silent New Year resolutions I made with myself. I don't know about you but most of the riding I've been doing for the last 6 years is on horses with no correct basic schooling and plenty of problems as a result. My role is pretty much degraded to "patching their issues up". When I go to school horses, their riders normally ask for reasonably quick fixes. You can do as much with a horse as you can with a circus animal. Tent roof's the limit. I witnessed other trainers applying their quick fixes too and although it might work for a bit it will never be a foundation to further training. Other issues will pop up as a result and it's just a viscous bad training circle.
My main problem with this is that I love to ride a horse with good basics. I was spoiled forever by fantastic jumping stallions in my teens and then spoiled again by riding some superb young dressage horses that didn't cost a small fortune at all. They were just beautifully produced. There is no better feeling in this world than riding a supple, balanced well schooled horse.
So my resolution for this year is end to quick fixes.
Today I schooled this pony that can be a worried little thing, all 14hh of it and very sensitive. In ideal world, when I work with riding school horses my main aim is usually to check on obedience, ride through the exercises they are required to do in lessons, make sure they do what they are told and make sure their rhythm, suppleness and contact are there and easy for intermediate riders to get the feel for. More often than not, those basic are barely there. I get 30min slots every several weeks with each pony or a horse. I can't plan any progression or continuity in this schooling.
This is why my decision is to simply work these horses on the day and only ask for what they can give on the day. Challenge them if possible but don't ask for movements their bodies are not ready for. It's a totally different thing to school a horse from the beginning and showing him things can be done. Sometimes those school horses' bodies are so crooked the simple things like cantering on the correct canter lead is an issue. You can "kick them into it" but it feels a bit like making someone do a split when they are not ready.
Schooling them as if I had unlimited amount of follow up days with them makes me feel way happier.
The little pony tried so hard and stayed so relaxed throughout that it was one of the most enjoyable schooling sessions I've done for a very long while.
Nine days of 2011 has gone by. I am never really the one to hurry up the time and it's good to enjoy every day as it comes but this winter has been so slow and business destroying I wish I was done with it. The very positive feeling I have about the rest of the year is still somewhat muffled by all the worries of the next two months. If I can survive them, this year is going to be The Year.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank a few wonderful people who offered to help me with my further exams, training and business planning - I feel extremely fortunate to have them. You know who you are so I won't do the name run - a huge Thank You! :)