I have been slacking a bit in the saddle this summer because, well, it’s hot.
Add to that a high mold count and Saharan dust, and it’s pretty much the recipe for a party tray in the foyer of Hell. At the same time, I have noticed Eli’s condition getting into less-than-ideal territory. He will start getting a little rice bran on top of what he already gets.
But food is not the only element that matters in this situation. Eli has gotten weak behind, and it shows. My trainer has said I need to step up my flat work with Eli if I want him strong behind, which is maybe sort of kind of important for jumping.
Eli had a few days off after deworming and stifle injections. I rode him Saturday and Sunday, and he felt fantastic. On Saturday, I kept things light. Sunday we worked a bit harder as I asked for a little more out of Eli’s impulsion in each gait. Things we worked on which I had been avoiding up until now: walking with contact; collected trot; more canter–meaning not just work more in that gait, but ask for more quality in the gait. More forward, more engaged, more uphill. As it turns out, Eli can do all of these things when asked, just not for every long yet. But we understand each other so I will gradually ask for a little more in each ride (although I reserve the right to still have an aimless, wandering, putzing around ride every now and then).
The most striking example happened during the left lead canter. This is Eli’s more difficult direction at the canter and he occasionally wants to fall out in the corners or just canter on his forehand more. On Sunday, I was asking for more collection at the canter while trying to maintain the uphill push from the hind end and got it — about three steps of it where the canter truly felt like what we’ve been aiming for, and then I stopped using my seat and Eli broke into a trot. We both got it, but I lost it, and Eli may not yet be strong enough to power through a mistake like that on my part. I don’t really mind that — everything that happened was like the right kind of wrong stuff to happen. I just brought him back down to a walk and asked for that same canter. We never quite got back to those three really good steps, but they are in there somewhere and maybe we’ll get ten good ones next time. I also don’t think Eli is taking any bad steps — he is still on the right path from the outset and he really tries hard. I am very excited about the direction we’re headed now.
Just having my trainer coach me through the flat work a few times has helped immensely. She was able to watch him on Saturday, and she said as soon as I picked up the contact at the trot, he was right there and ready, so I know what we are doing is working. I am hoping to get some film of our flat work this week, so I have a better understanding of feel lining up with look.
But today? There is that Excessive Heat Warning through 7pm. Today will be grooming in front of a fan and grazing in the shade.