This is why I tolerate my horse’s occasional exuberant spats, like the one that had me praying for a miracle Monday:
He is super talented. Sure, he doesn’t have the fancy front-end movement of the elite warmbloods, but he is a warmblood with an athletic ability that has always amazed me. As long as he can activate the engine (pushing from his hindquarters and using more hock action), that’s all that matters. The power comes from behind, not from the front.
It takes a while to warm-up sometimes. He had two days off since a very challenging workout on Wednesday where I really pushed him with lots of fantastic rollbacks on the lungeline (we do downunder horsemanship regularly) and then pushed him under saddle after a brief break to tack him up. Today, he was stiff again on his left side, which has always been a problem and is normal after two or more days off. After lungeing, we did a lot of suppling exercises, first at the walk, starting with medium walk to collected walk and repeated several times, and then a free walk where he stretched nicely. Then we moved onto shoulder-ins, travers/renvers, leg-yields (which only came out well after we had to refresh with some turns on the forehand and some whip reinforcement), and some walk half-pass, which actually went very well. He’s gotten very responsive at just a shift of my seat now. At the trot, we had a few stiffness issues come up along the left side again and had to work hard to supple it. I realized I wasn’t asking correctly for travers and half-pass, and even then it took a tap on his left shoulder to remind him that my leg was asking him to lift up there while bending around that leg. Then things fell into place.
Canter work was pretty good, but finishing up was what got me so excited. I was wrapping up with some trot-walk transitions when I wanted to get out of the way of a lesson student coming around on the outside and asked Beau to move off. He took just a step or two of walk and went into the most beautiful canter to the left, his more difficult side (if you haven’t noticed the pattern already). He had become so loose and soft by then, along with the collection I had been asking, that he just sat deep. I wanted to keep it and asked for a couple 10 m circles to make it easy for a nice canter-walk. Again, the lesson student was coming around so I asked him to turn away from the wall but a little tighter than I wanted. He performed an amazing 1/4 canter pirouette! I asked for a couple strides straight into the arena and he almost gave me a canter-halt, rather than the just the canter-walk I wanted. THAT is why I work through any training difficulties. My horse is AMAZING! I’ve done all his training and we’re both learning as we move up the levels, and he’s only seven, so he has so much potential yet.
These little glimpses into what we can do really help me to get a feeling for what I need to do to make it attainable as a regular training movement. And thanks to my instructor, we can do a medium trot, because we’ve worked on that instead of simply lengthening.
I have to credit my regular instructor for helping us through so many difficulties. It seems like Beau is always having an off day when we have a lesson. And I have to credit an out-of-state instructor who comes up from Kansas every 2-3 months for clinics. As someone who regularly trains horses and riders up to Grand Prix level, she has helped us put the polish on what my regular instructor has done. It is a fantastic combination! And I credit my guardian angels who keep me safe when Beau gets exuberant and I’ve already done all I can to be safe.
I can avoid the troubles if I listen to the warning signs that he has some exuberance to let out. That’s what I didn’t do on Monday. I thought I could handle it, but he proved that he won’t contain himself when he needs to stretch his legs, and he is a big boy who needs to stretch his legs at least once in a while. His run may be good sized, but it’s not enough for him to get any speed.
Once the outdoor arena is dry, I’ll be turning him out regularly when it’s empty for a good run before we ride