After our barn decided not to enter the first event of the season at MeadowCreek, we planned a schooling weekend at Willow Draw instead. And then Willow Draw got slammed with rain a few days before, and we quickly resorted to Plan C: a weekend at Pine Hill. Yeah, we’ve been there a lot, but there’s always something more to work on. Plus this time I was bringing Presto, and he’d never been there. He hasn’t been off the property since FEH Championships last September, so I figured it was time. He seemed so happy to finally be included, he practically BOUNDED onto the trailer.
Due to some scheduling conflicts, we made the weekend a Friday/Saturday thing. I have a stupid amount of PTO, so you’ll never have to twist my arm too hard to get me to play hooky on a Friday to go play with ponies. We opted to do a dressage lesson with Henry on Friday, as a follow-up to the one we had a couple weeks ago. I’ve spent that time working on the couple of big homework items that we got, so I was interested to see what progress we’d made, and hopefully build on it a bit.
Last dressage lesson Trainer revealed that a lot (ok, all) of my issues with getting Henry into the right rein were because he was carrying his haunches to the right. I’ve been laser focused on fixing that, and Trainer declared that he was, in fact, straight now. Hallelujah. Miracles. I mean… the fact that I actually had a horse in my right rein was evidence enough for me, but the formal declaration matters too. Since we typically don’t get lessons this often, I take the homework seriously. Sometimes we actually make improvements, and sometimes we don’t. It sure is nice when we do.
Now we’re at the point where we get to start asking him for more. More impulsion, more uphill, more balance, more sit, more push. His conformation and way of going kind of work against him there, being downhill and croup-high, so it requires a lot of work from both of us to accomplish any of those things. We also need to start doing more transitions and in faster succession, something that has always upset Henry.
But whereas the Henry I used to have would get upset and then have a meltdown and be irretrievably fried for days, the Henry I have now can get upset but I can still ride him through it to the other side and he gets over it. So it’s time to start putting a little more pressure on him. He’s kind of trained me along the way to not push the envelope too much in the flatwork, but the horse has evolved now and I’ve got to be a little bolder about it.
We practiced some bits of the Prelim B test, which really just showed that we REALLY need to work on those bits of the Prelim B test, but Henry is feeling stronger and stronger. I can’t complain about that. He’s come a long way, especially in the last year.
After Henry and I were done getting tortured, we went back up to the barn and I grabbed Presto. I wanted to pony him out with one of the XC schooling groups, so he could be in a big group of horses with lots going on, and have to stand around and be patient.
And that kid, y’all, he was just super. We stood in warmup while the other horses were galloping around, and he gave precisely zero shits. He watched them jump, he tagged along through the scary woods without a care in the world (well, aside from trying to eat every single bush and tree), and he stood pretty patiently. We walked through the water and he didn’t even so much as hesitate, just plowed right in there like it was the most natural thing in the world. In fact, he planted his feet and refused to come OUT of the water at one point, and I had to get after him. He walked over a ditch with Henry, and walked over a couple of teeny tiny logs. Even when other horses were getting upset around him for various reasons, he didn’t care. Considering how little he’s seen and that he’d never been to that venue before, I couldn’t have been more pleased with him. He’s so brave and curious, soaking everything up like a little sponge. He’s the same no matter what environment he’s in.
I was mostly worried about how he’d react to Henry and/or Dobby leaving him behind at the stalls, but when I left for my lesson he neighed a few times and then settled down. When Hillary left with Dobby for her lesson later, same thing. He’s definitely got a loud scream in him, but he doesn’t get belligerent. I can live with that. Once he gets a little older and more secure in himself, the neighing will lessen. Hopefully.
It was a great first day of adventures for both boys. Well, Henry may not have agreed, but… day 2 was cross country for him, so don’t worry, he got happier. To be continued tomorrow!