In just about a week, my horse has totally learned his changes. Smartypants.
They may not be incredibly pretty all of the time, but they're there, and they're there when I ask for them, so that's all I expect out of him now. Of course, they usually involve bucking, and when I start to get carried away and school them a little too much, I turn down the diaganol, he immediately changes, and then goes charging and bucking down the rest of the diaganol. I think its safe to say Ben likes his changes. He's been getting better especially now that I limit ourselves to two to three changes per side per day.
I shall see if I can beg, borrow, and/or steal someone to take a video for me today...
On another note, this is the time of year where you either jump, or you do a dressage school. My horse hates my guts if I make him do a dressage school two days in a row, which just equals a crappy ride anyway. I don't like to jump more than once or twice a week to save his legs. So, it being February, I don't have many other options. Yesterday I got creative. Tacked up in my jump stuff, rode around far a bit on a long rein. Didn't worry about putting him into a frame or anything, just pushing him forward from behind into a nice, soft, allowing contact. He really felt great.
He was moving forward from behind, super balance, seeking the bit, didn't do any of that stopping in the middle of the ring and refusing to go forward crap. I decided to canter on the long rein too because he's been getting super cranky when we canter lately. It is definitely not saddle fit, just him being cranky. So canter on the loose rein, in a light seat. Bingo. Forward, happy Ben. So after that I was fresh out of ideas for my ride. So I got off and threw some random poles on the ground and trotted and cantered over those for a while. Then, at the end of our ride, we just walked up and down the hills in our paddock for a few minutes, which was good for both of us, just to be able to get a change of scenery.
The winter is a hard time to be an eventer up north. Luckily, this winter has been very mild, but that has actually been part of the problem! Now that I can actually ride all the time, I'm running out of things to do! During eventing season, we always have something coming up, something to prepare for. Eventing season is about maintenance rather than improvement. In the winter, aside from the occasional jumper show, there's nothing to prepare for. During eventing season, there's always a cross country school, a jumping lesson, something to break up the monotony of the week. Not in the winter.
As I have come to this realization, I have discovered that I need to make the rest of the winter about improvement, not maintenance. I need to do the things that are going to be ugly at first now, when I don't have an event looming over my head. Ben's changes for example. If it were the middle of the season, I wouldn't be schooling them because they make him excited which I don't need any more of at events. Lateral work that makes him cranky, lengthenings that get him revved, series of transitions that are downright ugly at first. These are all things that I can be working on now that I wouldn't work on during the season.
It also needs to be improvement for me. Ben isn't going to improve unless I do. Last week I took the stirrups off of my dressage saddle and rode without them for an entire hour. Last week I also rode in two point for fifteen minutes straight. Ow. Improving myself means sacrificing a day or two a week of schooling Ben because I need to not focus on him when I'm focusing on me. So I'll let him plod around with his head in the air while I work on my two point or work on keeping my shoulders back or my leg stretched down. Because when I improve, he will too.
So while I'm certainly not saying that I wouldn't want to be in Aiken or Ocala if given the opportunity, I am saying that I am taking what I am given and I am going to be happy with it because it is giving me the time to improve instead of maintain.
As always, thanks for reading!