With Willo we have gone back to basics; sometimes to move forward you need to take a few steps back. In terms of confidence, we were both suffering a little, so we’ve since kept things simple and built upon our successes. With jumping, Willo had become unsettled by me being defensive coming into a fence, so Sharon and I had a few sessions to help re-establish my position, using some exercises that always make me laugh (it feels like trying to pat your head and rub your tummy!) over some poles and building up to some small fences. It worked a treat, and we both felt better for it. Independently I have been practicing at home, and Willo and I are now back to jumping a decent height and some scary fillers with smiles on our faces, hurrah! We also boxed over to Sparsholt for an outing to practice over a course of their jumps which is always extremely beneficial, and it felt great for him to be taking me to the fence again. I’m very keen to get out and compete round some courses, but equally we need to make sure we’re ready or we will back at square one. All good things come to those who wait!
We’ve also been working further on our flatwork, with the help of Sharon. We’ve had some great lessons and on a few occasions recently he’s really given me the wow factor in his work; working deep and round, coming up underneath me, and becoming super light in the hand. Last weekend we ventured out to Altogether Equestrian at Cholderton to do some dressage. We were planning to pick Monty up but he picked up a knock, so we had to go without. Knowing I had entered 2 Prelim tests, I offered Sharon the 2nd ride on Willo; this mean she could still compete, but also that Willo would get the chance to show what he could do with a more established dressage rider. Well, after the hold up with Monty, we arrived late and my warm up was non-existent! Nonetheless, he felt so much improved and we finished the test smiling. Next up was Sharon’s turn and she rode P10 on him, finishing 7th with 66%! Pretty good considering she last sat on him about 7 months ago! Sharon felt excited having ridden him, and feels he’s got an 80% in him...great news. He’s continued well at home, and I popped him in the draw reins the other day to help remind him to get deep and round. With barely a contact on them, he just floated round the arena, and he’s very keen on showing me his medium trot at the minute! He was just awesome, so forward and off the leg...perhaps he’s feeling good for being on the summer paddocks?! If he can perform like that in a test I will be grinning from ear to ear! Yep, dressage making me smile, who’d have thought it?
I really feel we’ve turned a corner lately; having to step back from the situation has allowed me to see that Willo is just a very sensitive chap, and we were dealing with him in the wrong way. He takes confidence from his rider, and is unsure if you are; if you punish him for it and get after him, things can quickly spiral, but if you reassure him and work with him he tries his heart out for you! I think my changed mindset has helped, and I’m really keen to see if we can continue to make good progress. Ok, he will never be the schoolmaster I was originally looking for, but now that my understanding of him has deepened, we are working together as a team. It helps that he is just a nice person to be round too! If the right person comes along to buy him, I will sell him, but certainly in the mean time I’m happy that we have plenty to work with and build upon, and of course we will continue to compete. Partnerships can take a long time to develop, and part of me is now wondering if 9 months was long enough for me and him?? Definite wobbling!