Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Best Laid Plans

So, in short, we did NOT get to go xc schooling at King Oak this week which is really unfortunate. I had hoped for numerous reasons we'd be able to go. I was hoping to school the ditches, maybe the trakehner, the Training drop into and out of the water, the Training bank to log combo, and maybe the Training level corner. All the places we have around here to school are all lower level stuff, usually only up to Novice. Which is all fine and dandy, but I would like to see what Ben could do over bigger and more complicated stuff.

But, such is life, and we've been trudging on, prepping for Riga per usual. We did a jump school on Monday with varied success. I had a warm-up crossrail on one long side, a 5 stride line of a 2'6" and 2'9" vertical on the other long side. On one diganol there was a 2'6" vertical, on the other a 2'9" one. On one short side I set up a 3' oxer. And then we have these super skinny coops that are probably only four feet wide. I put one of them more or less next to the oxer on the short side. If you stuck to the edge, you went to the oxer, if you cut in a little more, you went to the coop. I put the other one on one of the diaganols. Nothing special or fancy, just wanted to get him jumping over some Novice fences as this was to be our last jump school before Riga.

He was jumping okay to begin with. He wasn't throwing his shoulders over fences or anything and he was being as adjustable as Ben can be. He actually was jumping well, it was just the in between that was kind of bad. I warmed up over a bending line of 2'6" verticals, jumped the outside line and had the 2'9" down simply because I chased him to the distance and he couldn't get his front end out of the way. My bad. He jumped everything else fairly well until the oxer. In hindsight, it was a very bad place to put the oxer. Because it was on the short side, I had about two straight strides to it, which wouldn't be terrible if I had a horse that actually bent around the turns when he was jumping. At this point he was starting to get strong to his fences and hang on the bit. He doesn't do this all the time, but its really annoying when he does.

In my attempt to get him *up* in front and *bending* around the turns, he gets pissy, starts kicking up with his hind end and then ends up even more on the forehand than he started out. This is what he was doing going into the oxer the first time. I didn't see a distance so I pulled back instead of pushed forward because all he was doing was resisting my leg if I kicked him on. Of course that just made us lose all of our energy and before I knew it we were right in front of the fence with zero energy and I had a very bad image of what was about to happen when he tried to jump this sizable oxer.

Luckily, he ducked out to the left. I have never ever ever been so happy to have a horse run out in my life. I actually patted him for it because he made a smart decision. Sometimes I really wish he wouldn't take off for some of the things he does. By all means, I am thrilled that I have a game horse with a good fifth leg that will help me out when I get us wrong. I don't want him to stop if we don't have a perfect distance. But there *is* such a thing as a too honest horse! I was happy he used his brain in this situation.

We circled around and tried again with a much better result. He was still kicking up and being annoying headed in but I kicked forward and even though we still got there pretty close we had the energy to get up and over and cleared it. I then omitted that jump from any later courses we did because it was just in a bad place and it was hard to get a correct distance to it where it was. We won't have to deal with any crazy turns like that at events, so why risk integrating bad habits?

I thought I would finish up with a quick course. Crossrail, outside line, bending line, diaganol vertical, skinny coop on the diaganol. All is going super well. After the coop I loop around and go to jump the other coop on the short side as the last fence of my course. And he runs out to the left. Umm, my horse doesn't run out, so I think I might have gave him an unintentional mixed message with the oxer. So we reaprroach but I definitely overcorrected and basically gave him no other choice but to duck out to the right this time. So we turn around and try yet again, but at this point he is so flustered that I don't even think he knows what he's doing and runs out to the left again.

I did give him two good whacks for that because, whether it was my fault he was doing this or not (and if it was I feel extremely guilty!), he still needs to be reprimanded for running out three times. That is just not acceptable. So we came back to a nice, quiet, reassuring trot and popped over the coop without issue. LOTS of pats! Then we popped over a 2'9" vertical well to end on a good note. So it was a mixed jumping day. The quality of the jumping was good, but the in between he was stubborn and strong. He's not like that so much at shows which is good but it just makes it hard to work on things at home.

As far as the running out I am 100% convinced that I gave him a bad idea when I praised him for being smart about the oxer. I think I was just so relieved that we weren't both on the ground that I didn't think it through all the way. I don't think I should've reprimanded him for it, but I do think that I should have just done nothing and tried again. As far as the coop, I don't ride him defensively because this horse has never really run out on anything in the time I've had him. I think his confidence was a bit low at this point and I wasn't helping him by giving him barriers with my hand and leg and he just slipped out the side door. I think it would have been slightly less worrisome if it hadn't happened *three* times but it truly was my fault and he was upset. As soon as I took a step back and reassured him, he was super about it.

We have been diligently working on our dressage the past two days. Yesterday we worked on all of the things that are tricky for us: the centerlines, the trot-walk transitions, the trot-canter-trot transitions, and the free walk to med walk transitions. Things went well and I felt pretty good by the end of it. Today we did some basic w/t/c and then some walk/canter/walk (which he is getting really awesome at by the way!) and some changes as an attempt to improve his canter, particularly to the left. His left hind is definitely weaker than the right and some days its harder for him to use it than others. Today was one of the harder days. So to the left, when circling, he bucks and kicks out in protest so we were working on NOT doing that today. Once he was going better in the left canter we did a quick run through of our test for Sunday which went pretty well. The 20 meter trot circles and the left canter circle were pretty stiff but fairly steady for the most part. When he is bending and moving more fluidly, it is a lot easier for him to be steady in the bridle. He just wasn't moving all that well through his hind end today which affected the quality of the work. That improves at shows as well, luckily.

The canter transitions I wish were a little more prompt while still being balanced and steady. He either does a prompt transition immediately when I ask with his head in the air, or he runs a bit but then makes a pretty nice transition. I want to have my cake and eat it too! Free walk to med walk has improved a ton! Which is nice because there is a whole movement dedicated to that transition in Novice A. Everything else was decent, but I will definitely be running through again before Sunday.

I'm planning on riding on the flat for the rest of the week assuming I don't burn him out by all this dressage work. Maybe he'll need a walk to the stream at some point but I really am happy with how he's been going. Bring on Riga!

Sorry about the length of this post, it really wasn't supposed to be this long! As always thanks for reading, you guys are the best!

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