We just have to ride better.
I think for some of us it is so easy to get caught up in some new gimmick. Whether it's training or tack or even supplements and feed we really want to believe that if we purchase this next item it will be the last and final thing that we will have buy and it will totally get our horse to Grand Prix. By like next week. I'm just dumbfounded by the amount of ads that are out there that have the cure for us as riders. This saddle with make you sit the trot, this bit will get your horse to go round and in collection, this magic saddle pad will relieve your horse of all and any back pain, these brushing boots will fully protect your horses lower legs from IEDs. I too find myself getting caught up in the smoke and mirrors, especially when I feel William is not performing his best.
This is a very cyclical thing. We have a week or two of a most beautiful partnership, of mutual understanding and lightness. There are days where I think, "Hell yeah, Region 3 watch out. This Draft Cross is getting more 70s." However, almost to the day I can detect when that roller coaster of pleasure is ready for its big nose dive. Then we have days and weeks of struggling, hanging, bracing, haunches hanging out behind and general not-funness to ride. During these times as much as I want to run to my trainer crying and have her tell me what I'm missing, I cannot. She lives in Maryland and I can only see her about once a month or less. So, I take to books, articles, videos, anything I can get my hands on to help me figure it out. Is it me, is it him? Is it the shoes? Does he need to be adjusted? I exhaust Mikki asking her to work on him over and over again. Of course most of these educational tools are also littered with ads selling me something to "fix" my problem. Take it away and to never be heard from again!
Our most recent problem started the day before my regional championship class. He stepped off the trailer so uneven I thought I might have to scratch him from competition. However, through Mikki's amazing talents in bodywork and lots of walk stretching he was rideable for our only class. He was heavy, bracing and dropping his back throughout the whole test but rideable none the less. Since bringing him home it has been a struggle to get him to sit down and lift himself up. I tried giving him time off, no time off. Working in the ring, working out of the ring. I just kept telling myself just wait till his new bridle gets here, that will fix it all.
::insert record screeching to a halt clip here::
That's right. I bought him a GORGEOUS PS of Sweden bridle that I had fitted to him by a PS of Sweden rep at Regionals. Finding a bridle that fit his ears without rubbing them raw, but also something that wasn't so tight around the browband that he'd have constant headaches. It has been a search years in the making. I have heard wonderful things about these bridles and just could not wait to order one. The fact I could get it fitted to his head was the clincher. It was due to arrive this week and I was excited. This could really be the turning point for him. Perhaps its all just because of poll pressure. Sure making changes like this has worked in the past. Going from saddle to saddle until I found my love of loves the County Fusion. William had more shoulder freedom and his back started to build quickly. This totally improved his way of going... to a point. I still had to ride him. We went soaring with the darn eagles for weeks until the wings melted off and he was heavy and tired and not going so great anymore. I fretted and worried. Does the saddle not fit anymore? Perhaps I need to invest in a sheepskin pad or some ballistics impact material. Is it the shoes?
It was none of it. We simply had hit a plateau in our training that we could either solve through rider education or be stuck here forever. I am blessed to be able to ride with such a gifted woman, Felicitas von Nuemann-Cosel, a trainer world renown for her harmony with her horses and development of self carriage. She pushes me harder and further each time I see her and it makes huge changes in William (my draft cross who doesn't move like a draft cross anymore). She gives me to tools I need to get over the hump and get this rollar coaster going back up! Now if only I would remember what she tells me when the going gets tough...
Back to the bridle. Yay! It arrived on Monday! I slapped on his bit, put it on his glorious face and my arms tingled with anticipation of what a beautiful poetic ride we will no doubt have.
Can you guess how it went? Oh, he did feel great in the bridle and it fits him beautifully don't get me wrong, but as I found out today the only way to make that glorious bridle work was for me to know how to use it. And that expensive saddle my butt loves so much? I need to have an independent seat for any saddle to HELP my horse be great. I need to know about saddle fit and placement and how to move my hips so I don't need a darn ballistics pad to absorb shock (and possibly my seat aids). I need to know how to give after that half halt and push my hands forward, keep my horse straight for that bridle to work.
Today was one of the best rides I've had on Will in a long time. Not because of some bridle but because I. Rode. Better. I paid attention to the basic biomechanics of my horse and rode him softer, rounder and lighter. I LOVE my County Fusion (and so does William), I LOVE LOVE LOVE my PS of Sweden bridle (and so does William) but I also love being reminded that unless you take the time to learn to ride and ride well, nothing in this world well get you through a plateau. You will circle that airport until you run out of gas in the air.
So when my clients tell me about something new they have read about; a new material, saddle, boot, bridle, helmet, glove, whatever, I just smile and nod. It's all worth trying! But it ain't no magic bullet.
...I'm also just happy it wasn't the shoes.