I've fallen so far behind again that I think the best way to handle updates is to just do a general catch-up post. Sorry for the lack of photos--this is certainly one of the downsides of being at a private farm instead of a boarding facility, and of having very few local horsey friends. I'm really hoping to get some for you this week.
Last week, Mo and I struggled quite a bit. I wrote about how he was a little tense after the first show. He was inside out and upside down, and so we didn't even really jump in the jumping lessons. I took one on Thursday in which M made it very clear: I fix the flatwork before he jumps again. And to fix the flatwork, I needed to step up my game. He was tense, sort of stuck in the contact, behind my leg, trying to take over--just generally unpleasant. We couldn't achieve a trot to walk transition without much frustration. So I needed to improve my feel, fix my position flaws that were making my life harder, and take charge of the ride. M tried to help prevent my suicide by telling me that she was upping the pressure on me, not just Mo. But still. It was a horrendous ride.
So Friday I didn't ride at all because I was shooting sales videos of horses for a friend. I spent the entire day--which was gloomy and gross anyway--feeling very sorry for myself and thinking maybe I should just take up knitting. But then I put on my big kid pants and took advantage of the fact that we have two extra horses in the barn right now at M's and that she hadn't had a lot of time to ride during the week, which meant that the horses did not NECESSARILY need the weekend off. And she had no plans on riding them. So with her permission, I rode all five available horses at her farm both days, plus Red and Sugar at my house (we have seven horses at her place right now, but one of them is her son's pony and the other is a horse you'd have to put a gun to my head to get me on, and there's no way M would let me anyway because she doesn't want me dead).
Lemme tell you, that many rides in two days is quite a lot. My legs are still sore. But I got on these VERY different horses with one goal: to figure out how each one was going to fix my issues. Every horse had to be on the bit, go at the exact pace I told them to, AND finish the ride more relaxed than he or she started it (or at least stay the same). All horses were ridden in the dressage saddle to increase my comfort level with it and because I thought it would be the most useful for fixing my issues. So this was the lineup:
Mo: Y'all know him by now--a very green young TB who is a good egg but is also not always easy.
Red: My big silly dope, working on contact, but generally kind and willing.
Sugar: The medium pony, who is very sassy but safe and quiet. Honestly, she just needed to steer.
Seneca: A PSG dressage horse, a thoroughbred, a known rearer, one of my FAVORITE horses of ALL TIME.
Spike: The biggest ego I've ever sat on, pretty green (competing BN at the moment only because he has no time for dressage but could jump around Novice or Training tomorrow no problem), thinks his ideas are way better than yours.
Bo: Second level dressage horse, could go third if he can get the changes confirmed. Also a thoroughbred, but not as light as some of the others. He knows a lot but you have to know how to find it. Love him. Worst thing he does is whinny for his friends.
Taz: A very green, very tense TB. He's technically gone Novice but I'm not sure how. He's competing BN at the moment, but he'll move up to Novice before too long. He's 173.hh and about six inches wide and has a short neck and so-so balance, so it kinda feels like you could just find yourself lying in the dirt at any moment. He'll rear when he's worried, too.
My rides on all of them went pretty well. I definitely kicked my own butt, but except for Sugar, I achieved all my goals. Sugar just doesn't really come round at this point, and because I don't need her to, all is copacetic there.
Then on Monday I had a dressage lesson on Mo, and I was nervous about it: would my hard work on fixing my lower leg, my shoulders, and most importantly, my brain, have paid off? Or would Mo still insist on inverting and evading?
Long story short, M was THRILLED with how both Mo and I were looking. I was so relieved I could have cried. She loves the saddle ("your position is fanTAStic"). She liked the frame he was in, and so did I. He was soft and could maintain the lovely feel through changes of direction and even transitions. We were able to school contact in the canter instead of just surviving it. He didn't totally come round in the canter, but it was rhythmical and I felt as though I could easily point him at a 2'6" jump in that canter and we'd be fine. I got off feeling so happy I wanted to cry. And I got the best compliment I've probably ever gotten from M: "I put the pressure on you, and you stepped up. Again." Thank god. Then I rode Bo while she rode Seneca, and she was lightly coaching me through counter canter and other dressagey stuff that I still think is hard.
Tuesday we had a jump school on Mo. I was desperately hoping that the excellent flatwork would stick with us and let us actually jump in a jump lesson. I needn't have worried. He was fabulous. The only thing I needed to deal with was opening up his stride a bit without him rushing, and we got that done. He trotted over the warmup verticals no big deal. The only time we ran into the slightest problem was the first time I presented him to the barrels, lying down under a 2'3"ish oxer. He stood around in front of them and I gave him a hard time, and then every time I approached either barrel oxer, he jumped it.
There was still some riding to do, and now I need to fix my ride in the last two strides to the jump (I sometimes freeze a bit, and stand in my outside stirrup). But Mo was just being a really good baby. He made some awkward efforts, and I didn't always stay with him as well as my four-star veteran coach could have, but we got it all done and nothing was a total mess. He trotted in and cantered out of the vertical line and the barrel oxer line, and then cantered into and out of both lines. I was so, so happy. And relieved.
So this weekend will be big for him, and now that we have a couple good schools under our belt, I'm not dreading anything. On Saturday, we're doing a fix-a-test clinic. It'll just be Intro A, so nothing too exciting, but we're definitely not ready to canter in a dressage ring yet. The clinician, Brian Ross, is someone that people I love have a deep admiration for, so I'm hoping Mo doesn't decide to revisit rearing that day. On Sunday, we're doing a combined test at the same venue (Gordonsdale, if you're nearby). It'll be Intro A again, and an 18" jump course. I was worried that he was just going to be too nuts to handle things, and maybe he still will be, but I'm excited to see how he does instead of dreading it.
So that's what we've been up to. I have a dressage lesson tomorrow on Bo and then another jump school with Mosey on Friday. He'll have a light week next week for sure.
I. Am. So. Relieved.