About a week and a half ago, I emailed the barn's main trainer, who was now back from Florida. My work schedule is ramping up to a truly ridiculous degree, and will stay at that fever pitch through late June. I'd had a few evenings in which I went to the barn prepared to ride - and could not flog my brain through the basics of dressage. Input/output was broken. I wasn't reacting fast enough, I wasn't processing at all, and I was not riding well.
I asked: in light of my upcoming work schedule, can we talk about partial training board? We talked. I was thrilled with what she outlined. I said yes.
On Wednesday, Tristan had his first proper training ride in many years. It was great in many ways: first, he did not magically become an amazing dressage horse. Whew! So I wasn't riding him all that poorly.
Second, I was able to see pretty clear progress from start to finish, and watch as the trainer's assistant trainer/barn manager M. did things that I would've had trouble doing easily, quickly, and cleanly and moved Tristan through his usual evasions and trouble spots.
Third, she enjoyed riding him! She pegged him right away: stubborn, smart, not terribly supple but with a good understanding of the basics. It was a pleasure to watch Tristan go, to know he was getting a great ride, and to chat with the trainer, who had come to watch.
I'm going to watch a training ride again tonight, and then he'll be on his own riding schedule 2x a week with M. We talked through my goals for him, and what a realistic outcome of six weeks was, and I'm happy all around.
I'll continue to do fitness rides, hill work, hacking out - the stuff that I don't need to engage higher thinking for. Fun stuff, for me. He'll have someone else doing the calculus with him, and I may play around occasionally but it is a huge weight off my mind to know that I don't have to.
I'll try to get pictures tonight - I'm excited to see what his next ride brings!