I was driving to the barn with no clear plan regarding what I wanted to do with PJ. I had a number of options from which to choose:
1. I could just brush him. But, I really didn’t want to give him a day off since he just had a day off on Wednesday. But then again, maybe his recent super sluggishness was from a soreness or stomach issue (the temperature swings have been severe).
2. Make up for missing WoSW. This would give PJ an easy day and me a hard day, which I’m not against. No stirrups builds strenth, helps balance, and improves my seat. But I was so sore from my gym workouts and previous lesson that I really didn’t want a really hard day. Also, he was so stuck at yesterday’s lesson that I was afraid a day where I didn’t push him forward would just encourage that.
3. I could ride outside, either in the ring or out on the hill. But, it wasn’t all that warm, the ground was still frozen, and the only person who was around while I was tacking up was the person who cleans stalls. He’s a good guy but I didn’t think he would notice if I didn’t come back. Riding indoors would be a lot more comfortable for both me and PJ’s feet, and safer.
4. I could just ride him like normal in the indoor. Nothing wrong with this idea but after my last few lessons I was feeling a little down about my abilities.
I ended up choosing option #4. I could not believe how stuck he was. He wouldn’t even trot off. However, after I tried to canter him is where things got ugly. Barbara was teaching a lesson to two people who trailered in at the other end of the ring, so I pretty much had a 20-meter circle to work in. I don’t know if it was because Barbara put me on the lunge on Tuesday to work on canter departs at that same end of the ring or what, but once I did the first canter transition, that’s all PJ wanted to do. He wasn’t listening to me, he was just anticipating me. I think this is related to his recent bout of spooking – he’s not in tune to me and only me. Now, this could be because I’m vague in my aids; I’ll fully admit to that. But I got mad, or should I say determined. I kept working him so that when I half-halted, he didn’t immediately pick up the canter when I sent him forward, or when I put my inside leg on him that it meant move your inside hind NOT canter. It took a long time but by the end I had a beautiful, forward trot that I could adjust and then ask for the canter or a walk when I wanted it.
I think it all came down to him making too many decisions on his own. Because he is such a good boy, most of those decisions revolve around what I want, so that our rides go…okay. But I really think I need to get after him a little more and wake him up and keep him focused on the task at hand. Maybe all of his other behaviors (head shaking on crossties, etc) stem from him being unsure of who is in charge. Horses don’t like to be boss, even the bossy ones, so maybe our ambiguous relationship worries him??? I do know that after our ride, he acted just a little bit differently to me on the ground. There was a little more concern about where I was in the barn. He always has respect but it seemed like there was a tad more. I don’t know.
Tomorrow is supposed to be really warm again and I plan to ride in the top field because mentally it’s good for him. This dressage thing is a journey, and right now I’m just finding my direction.