The problem with a very busy show schedule is not just the drain physically and mentally (and financially), but in the way it forces you to train. There’s training for good training, and then there’s training for competition.
Now, before anyone gets there panties in a wad, I’m not debating Classical vs. Competition dressage. I just mean that while a lot of the stuff is the same, when you have a show coming up, you practice a few tests. Inevitably, you focus on finessing the tests–also known as “salvaging this movement”. I’m sure we’ve all made compromises in front of the judge that we would never allow at home. But with a 6 week respite between shows, it’s time to get back to some nitty gritty: half-halts, throughness, suppleness.
After the Raleigh show, I spent 4 glorious days in the mountains with my best friend doing absolutely nothing. She’s recovering from an orthopedic procedure, and so we couldn’t hike or be active, and there was much lazing around reading, talking, and eating. Meanwhile back in Apex, Bravo had 4 days to also do nothing and to transition back to normal turn out. (He is newly barefoot, and we had put him on very limited round pen turn out while his feet were toughening. With 2 shows in a row with differing footing and no soreness noted, it was time to let him be a horse again.) I have always been a HUGE FAN of giving our horses some down time. I try to ride Bravo 6-7 days a week (ie, almost every day). His training is better, the submission/compliance is better, and let’s face it–1 hour of work per 24 hours is just not that much for a fit horse. But, he is young, and I do worry that mentally and/or physically he could use the occasional break–and I’d rather do chunks of 2-3 days off than a day here or there interspersed between riding days because it really allows the muscles to repair, inflammation to recede, and minds to calm. That’s my theory, anyway 😉
Unfortunately, down time for Bravo does pose a unique set of challenges for me once the vacation is over: the 3 day rule. For the first 3 days back into work, I am going to hear it from Bravo (figuratively and literally–he’s quite vocal even when ridden). Day 1 I am happy if I can maintain a walk, trot, and canter with no tail wringing, bucking, crow-hopping, or unplanned ring exits. I’m not usually happy. Day 2 he shows up with a little more willingness, but he’s going to make sure I really mean it. Day 3 he will pretty much do whatever I ask, albeit begrudgingly. Day 4 it’s back to normal, usually with some of the best work I’ve ever gotten from him.
This past week has been no exception. Once we got our “3 days” out of the way, I have had some really nice rides. For the first time this past Tuesday, I was able to get a haunches-in and maintain both the movement and forward impulsion at the same time. The next day, I could parlay the haunches-in into credible half-pass. His trot has had more cadence, and the half-halts in the canter are coming through without a lot of hand.
And then this morning he was foot sore, and when investigated, a bruise found on his right front toe. Sigh. Good thing I had planned to go to the beach tomorrow anyway!
Unfortunately, that means that my “3 days” will be happening all over again. Yee Haw!