L and I drove home to the GREAT FROZEN NORTH last week and left DJ and Grail to the Holling Eventing team. We returned to Ocala on Sunday and rode our ponies for the first time in ten days on Monday. My ride provided seeds for at least 3 separate blog posts, the first that came to mind is the benefit of professional rides. Primarily, I train my horses through lessons. Someone stands on the ground, while I ride, and tells me what to do to improve myself and my horse. I think a lot of eventers do it this way. I have a good skill set, my aids are independent, I am brave and determined, sometimes to my own detriment, but that is the subject of another post.
Keeping Grail round in transitions has been an elusive goal, which I have chalked up to the inconsistencies in his training program as well as his natural preference to go “like a giraffe”. After 10 days being ridden by Jenn, I found a tiny window had opened, one that I was able to crawl through and produce transitions much improved from those before our road trip.
The experience reminded me of a situation 20 years ago, when I was in Unionville, PA with Edgar, prepping for Moven Park CCI*. We did lots of long hacks and trot sets along the roadside on those beautiful wide shoulders bordered by split rail fence and gallops up the steep hills topped with massive mushroom filled straw piles.
Edgar became herd bound and resented hacking out alone. He quickly learned that if he bolted from the grass shoulder onto the asphalt pavement and spun for home, I was unwilling to risk a slip and fall trying to stop him. (For those not familiar, asphalt is very slick for a horse in shoes.)
I flew home to Chicago to work at the job that paid the bills and arranged a few rides from a professional who did not mind the prospect of some Unionville Road Rash. When I returned, the next time I hacked out on the roads, there was a momentary pause before Edgar leapt to the asphalt. The professional had introduced him to some unattractive consequences. He thought about them just long enough to give me the window of opportunity I needed to keep him on the shoulder.
I love to ride, so I don’t often turn over the reins for an extended period, it is nice when circumstances create the opportunity, and I am reminded of how helpful it can be.