Not the best ride ever last night.
Riding, for me anyway, is all about plateaus and valleys.
Mostly, we sort of cruise along, plodding ahead. Adding fitness, adding a little bit more suppleness, a little bit better transition.
Then we fall off a cliff.
And we hit bottom and I sort of stare around, dazed, wondering what the fuck happened, and Tristan thinks I am a worthless idiot. Then we wallow for a while, and everything is awful, and nothing works, even the stuff that worked flawlessly 48 hours ago.
Then we start slowly, painfully, crawling back up the other side. Eventually, we hit a spot that's maybe 1" higher than it was before we fell off a cliff.
So we plod along for a while. Then another cliff. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Sometime late last week, we fell off that cliff.
And right now Tris is wondering what the hell is wrong with me, anyway.
So right now we cannot: bend, go on the bit in the canter, trot forward, change direction on the bit, back up, turn left in the canter, breathe, relax at the base of the neck, use stifles. We can sort of get on the bit in the trot. We can in the walk if we want to crawl along flopping on the forehand. Which, obviously, is not ideal.
We also cannot, absolutely CAN.NOT. behave sanely outside. Un-possible. Out of the question. How dare I even think about it.
To be fair, this is his first year in four years when he's arrived into spring both a) very sound and b) very fit. Right now, he's banging out long trot sets and short canter sets and he's tired but still bright-eyed and willing to go. (On days that are not overly warm, anyway, since he's still got a lot of winter coat to blow out.)
Every single time in the last two weeks I've taken him outside there has been some kind of major shit fit. Last night, I set a goal of walking and trotting sanely in the outdoor. 20 minutes of walking, and he finally let go of the tension in his back and his neck - or enough of it, anyway - and I asked for a trot. Tons of little mincing steps, angry head-flipping, flinging shoulders side to side later, and he started to soften to the bit.
And then we got to the far end of the ring and he went sideways in this great scrambling leap, and UP, and down and then up and down a few more times. Still going sideways. Fast, toward home. I swore a lot and sat deep and yanked his head up and then kicked him on. Then it happened again. Then it happened again. I kept him walking.
Then I looked up to see that the barn manager was leaving, and I had one of those moments of utter defeat. I realized if I kept pushing this, I was going to end up on the ground, and there would be no one else around to catch Tristan. I can roll. Tris would head for the hills.
So we went inside, and we spent another 20 minutes attempting to get some semblance of "better than we started." Which was for the most part unsuccessful. I tuned up the trot-canter transitions a little bit. I got some changes of bend on a 20m circle. I got a couple of steps of leg yield. That was it. He was blowing hard, because he had spent the entire time fighting me, grinding his teeth, not breathing.
I called it quits. I stripped his tack. I took him back outside to one of the dry lots, and I let him roll, and then I curried him up and down. It was windy, but sunny, so the strong breeze took the hair away as fast as I could get it off him, and he still wasn't relaxed - he kept pacing, nosing at the hay and not really eating it, but he seemed to hate me a little less by the end of it.