It's been a very long time since I've posted about my training sessions, but it's not from lack of interest or motivation, that's for certain! I've been very busy keeping up with training and teaching and the general workings of the farm and haven't had a moment to spare. Today, however, was a REALLY successful day and I want to talk about it.
If you all remember, I've had a heck of a time trying to teach Wheels flying changes. I've tried every tool in my arsenal and have had no luck. I've doubted myself, second guessed myself, doubted my horse, etc. After much thought, speculation and discussion with other professionals, it was decided he would likely not do a change. I decided I was just going to sell him, likely as a jumper prospect and move on.
However, the other part of me has always adored this horse and felt he would be really special. Why was it something as simple as the flying change that was about to crush my dreams? I kept asking myself what I was doing wrong. For the most part, I'm very confident teaching the changes. Not only do my other horses do fantastic, straight tempis to ones, but I've taught many people to teach their own horses to do changes as well. So where was I going wrong? I'll tell you where...the basics!!! Wheels is tricky because he's very pretty, feels nice in the hand and can do most of the tricks with ease. He's very supple and balanced, however, ask him for a walk transition and he falls on his face, pulls on my hand and eventually walks. Really? Why had I accepted this?
I've spent the last month raising my expectations for this horse. I really thought about keeping his core muscles engaged, riding him straight and with even contact. We've worked really hard at perfecting the Second Level requirements. Every day, things would feel a little bit more through, a bit more in front of my leg, and less resistant overall. I'd always accepted some of Wheels' issues, blaming the EPSM... but why? Maybe it was an excuse and nothing more.
Today, I put the double bridle on for the first time in many weeks. I like riding him in the double because I feel I can keep him really straight and a bit more connected to my hand. I did a normal warm-up, making sure he was really in front of my leg in the walk before even considering going to trot. Once the trot was forward, I worked the shoulder-in and travers in both directions until I could easily move all the big body parts. Into canter we went. Forward and back, forward and back, checking control of each part, forward and back, forward and back, really collected, jumping canter, forward and back. He was straight and concentrating. Across the diagonal and voila! Clean flying change from left to right. I had witnesses. I praised him as completely as I could and immediately dismounted and brought him back to his stall.
I feel completely relieved. I had decided it was a mechanical issue that was beyond my ability (and maybe his own). But this proved to me they are there. I can teach this horse to do changes. I will teach this horse to do changes. Pam was right. Be patient, they will come.