Such are the words from Camp David.
Encore and I were able to sneak in two excellent lessons before the snowstorm hit, although I did most of my jumping with snowflakes in my eyes, gah! Friday evening, we allowed David to torture us in Death Circles on the flat, and Saturday, we attempted to brush the rust off my jumping skills. Rebuilding of my left leg is DEFINITELY not complete, ugh.
Two things emerged as themes, though, as we worked through unlocking all the parts of Encore and reminding my battered body that it is NOT supposed to be on my horse's neck (who knew?).
(1) It was with great enthusiasm that David pronounced Encore worlds sounder than he was last year. This news was received with equal enthusiasm, as the amount of money, energy, and time we have spent with Dr. Bob and his crew is not small. Every bit is worth it though when I ride his left lead and he feel like one horse instead of two ends of a horse suit loosely tied in the middle, doing their own thing. While I expressed that I wasn't sure if this was a compliment, David assured me that there is a difference between unsound and lame -- lame is limping, unsound is just...not right in the body. I certainly can't disagree that between his back and his injury in 2012, Encore needed "rightening."
|Last year: a better haircut and less fat, but greener|
Our goal was to get him super round, even if he got slightly behind the vertical in front, and then let him carry the bit forwards and down. When we did, I IMMEDIATELY felt his whole topline unlock and become soft and delicious.
Training is not black and white, it is all shades of grey (oh, goody, just like life). With this horse, because he has a tendency to go tight in his topline and he stays locked in his poll and jaw, he has overdeveloped the muscle at his poll. This in turn makes it even harder. Were we to just run him along off his feet, he would spend most of the time working incorrectly. We have to unlock these spots and supple him first and then ride him forward over his back.
This makes sense to me. In January and early February, I had been riding him simply forward in lateral work. While we could eventually achieve some softening, there was a lot of back and forth, fighting, and a lot of time spent impersonating tense llamas. Every step doing that is definitely not producing good results.
Using David's process, the difference was dramatic (although much harder work, so I guess it must be right). It also meant I had a softer horse the second I got on Saturday morning, which caught me by surprise. He continued to emphasize riding what was underneath me in the moment and keeping the focus there, creating the feel, instead of wasting time hoping for a horse that may or may not appear in the future. This is why I keep stalking David around the region -- his tailored approach to the horse in front of him brings out the best in my partners, the way a generic program never would. Drawing lines in the sand never gets us anywhere but frustrated when it comes to training horses.