I had a lesson on Monday, and it went great; I felt confident in my riding and in my ability to put Speedy together. When I rode him again on Thursday, I was very discouraged. He was stiff, crooked, and worst of all, he felt lame. I hopped off and checked for a rock - nothing. I trot him in hand down the arena - again, nothing. I went out to the dirt driveway where it's really flat and smooth to trot him - still nothing. I walked out into the road which is paved and trot him down that - absolutely nothing. Okay, he's not lame.
I got back on and really shortened my reins. I worked on suppling his neck and shoulders by moving him off my inside leg. Aha ... no lame steps and he finally started to move better. When I was finished riding, my old demons tried to convince me that I am a terrible rider and was going to fall apart on Sunday. It must have been a pretty weak attempt because I was able to simply brush aside the comments and tartly replied, big deal. It's the first show of the season. So what if we're a little rusty? And that was the end of the self-doubt.
I rode again on Friday, but this time I addressed some of the problems from the day before. I did some quick body work on Speedy while I groomed - stretches and massage, and once I was on, I paid attention to how stiff or resistant he was at the walk. I asked for a lot of walk with a long and low frame. Once we trot, I asked that to be long and low, too. Once I felt he was moving along pretty nicely, I shortened my reins and got to work.
The area that we most need to work on is piecing all of what we know together. I tend to stay in one end of the arena and only do small changes of directions using a short diagonal, and rarely do I work down the long side. I need to start adding in trot and canter work down the long side and across the diagonal so that's what I did on Saturday. I feel good about what he and I can do when we're relaxed without the pressure of C track right, B circle right 20-meters, KXM Change rein working trot ...
Test riding is very, very different from schooling work.