On Sunday I took Blue to combined training. Having only been back in work for two weeks after time off with an injury, it really was meant as a training exercise for us. I focused on gently bringing him back into work, starting with a week of mainly just walking and roadwork and a lunging session.
The second week I started asking for a bit more – longer periods of trotting and a little canter work plus further lunging to help build his topline, and one schooling session where I’d hired an arena.
Something I’ve worked on consistently across the two weeks however, are our transitions and halting in particular. One of my biggest frustrations is that Blue can have a tendency to perform a nice halt but immediately feels his work is done, loses concentration, hollows and turns his head to have a look around before I can salute. Bit rude, that, and not the best impression to leave the judge with at the end of your test.
With no arena at home and limited fitness, I think there are certain really basic things you can still focus on which make a difference; in my case, that halt. All the more important as Novice 30 has two within the test.
I was really chuffed that even when Blue tired at the end of his test, our work on the halt had produced two really good movements where he remained attentive and in an outline. Yes it’s basic, and it’s only one small part of the test, but there’s something to be said for sweating the small stuff and working on things you can improve. With limited time, facilities and fitness, I wasn’t going to suddenly find ten marks for improving his suppleness or way of going - but I was able to ensure he nailed those two movements where I knew I could make a difference.
This time it was a quick win for me. But looking at the bigger picture, consistently working on those small things where you can influence a change and gain a mark here and there, is how you can end up finding that extra five or ten marks over time.
As Van Gogh once said - great things are done by a series of small things brought together. How true.