Well Oakhurst was not exactly an unqualified success. I was not there to see the disaster myself, but it would seem that on cross country Solo was well behind the leg and convinced that there were spooky beings, under or behind every fence. He stopped on cross country, grumpy and unfocused as he came to a corner. Dressage continues to go fairly well and he is starting to produce some really breathtaking work in the trot. The stadium is wonderful. For show jumping he seems focussed and calm, he understands his job as soon as he goes in the ring.
Selena and I discussed all the factors that might have led to this cross country result. The last event he went to before Selena left for the Summer was Plantation where he won the smoothest cross country round of the day – now he is Mr Spooky again. We feel there are several possible causes. First and most obvious, he didn’t stay in competition form throughout the summer. We have known for a while that he thrives on ‘doing stuff’ and gets smoother and more relaxed the more often he goes out. This spring in Florida the trailer rarely left the yard without Solo ensconsed in his usual stall. Secondly, we had changed his bit for cross country from a straight bar, long cheeked Happy Mouth, to a metal long cheeked french link. He may need a change of bit but perhaps the french link is not the answer… back to the drawing board. I have also been concerned since his friend Waldo left that he has not had a regular turnout buddy. He was not always nice to his new friends and we eventually left him on his own. I think he has had enough of solitary and was depressed. He is now out with another big six year-old and they are both very fond of each other. This works until the new friend gets sold… sigh. He needs a permabuddy. If they could only talk it would be sooooo much easier.
For the moment….
He is back in the happy mouth and being lunged in a de gogue with emphasis on his overtracking and going forward. He had a week off after his last event, did a few days hacking and has now had two very energetic days of being asked to move forward on the lunge on large circles. He will do three days in a row then he will have either a hack day or we will loose jump him over some small obstacles in the arena. All of his work will be active and forward with as long and low a contact as possible while we work on straightness and staying in front of the leg/lunge whip. His obedience to the leg has always been more than slightly suspect and when he is not kept in regular practice, that old habit of wanting to ‘give his opinion’ gets him into trouble. We have to make sure he is thoroughly committed to the idea that leg means ‘forward’ and go means go. That is at root a flat work issue, and for the moment we will address the root cause.
For the jumping….
We are going to use grids and poles but use them over and around the cross country jumps in the field. He is just as spooky every time he does a six inch log in the field as he is when he does a Training fence – it has nothing to do with height or difficulty, almost more of a game. We need to change his idea of what the game actually is! In addition to setting his straightness and stride with grids, we are hoping to get him out hunting (after hunting, eventing won’t seem nearly so exciting) and to take him cross country schooling with a schoolmaster to lead him over the fences and hopefully guide him down the smooth straight path to the jump. I don’t think his confidence is at fault but he will lose confidence if he keeps spooking up to the fences and cat jumping them.
He continues to build in body and outline. He is maturing physically in every way you could ever want… I know he is maturing mentally too, I just wish it showed as well as the muscles on his topline… lol.
Fortunately the weather is gorgeous and it’s a lovely time to be working on all the youngsters.