Friday: Junior was a jerk to ride. He's been worse traveling left since I got him and now he's being really obstinate about bending left. I had to smack him with the reins three times because he was refusing to move that direction. I don't think he's having any pain issues, I think he was just pissed that he hadn't been turned out in a few days because of the rain and we were all alone in the arena. He took a while to slow back down to western jog which is frustrating because it took forever during my Thursday lesson to get him to speed up to a working trot. (KAT kept telling me to push him forward over and over again on and making the clucking noise as we passed.) His frame started out fine, but then he just dropped his front end and would'nt round his back. I had to start drilling halts because when I'd ask him to stop he'd stick his nose out and have to take several steps and then keep his nose in the air. Eventually he got his weight back to his hips and the stops came better. He's never been the best "on a dime" stopper but he does much better if I apply seat, bit and voice "ho" all at the same time. Just one of those alone doesn't work. It works the best if I use all three which might be a very bad thing in the show ring, but it's on our (long) list of things we need to work on. He's getting better at keeping his frame while halted. We were also having a lot of trouble backing straight on the rail. His pivots are getting better on the rail (not so much in the open...they turn into turns on the forehand really quickly) but when I was asking him to back he was swinging his hip AWAY from the rail which didn't even make sense. I was applying even pressure to start and then tried to correct him from the swing and he wouldn't obey my leg aids. The silver lining to the overall craptastic ride was that after a lot of fussing he was suddenly doing nice slow small circles both directions with nice quick halts and lope offs in between. I tried to praise him a lot and let him know that was good work.
The ride left me frustrated, though and wondering if the English/Western switch is too much for us this soon. KAT doesn't think so, but I wonder. Should I get one discipline down and then add the second? Should I work both simultaneously? The biggest difference (because I show a stock horse) is the speed. English gaits cover more ground and the frame is bit more rounded. The bit is different and having a shanked bit helps remind him to get into fram, but the aids are generally the same since most aids come from the legs/seat and not so much the bit. This, of course has been a hard transition to make since I was taught with an old-school forward seat and more of a dressage frame. I have reservations about the western pleasure "frame" but honestly it makes sense that when he works from his hips he's ready for quick stops and roll backs and other ranch work needs, and when his hips are working correctly his head drops. You an pull it down all you want but unless his body is correct his head doesn't matter. Why on earth we ride English/Hunter Under Saddle the same way is beyond me. I know I couldn't take a jump in this frame and that's sort of a primary part of English. BUT I am not going to change the world of stock horse showing. I'm also not going to have a 4-beat lope or tie my horse's head straight up the night before a show so he can't pick it up the next day. I'm just trying to enjoy my horse and try not to get laughed out of the arena. I'm not going to Congress, I'm not going to Paint Worlds, I'm just playing with my pony.
But because I'm so overanxious about everything I am looking at the next three weeks wondering if I should just put the English tack away and concentrate on getting him ready to do Western Pleasure and Horsemanship (depending on the pattern) for this first show. Argh. There is another show at the same place (which I like because it's right in town) on June 20th and it looks like I can make that show, too. Perhaps I should just do WP at the May show and plan to do both on June 20th? I'll have more time to train in May and June than I will in April..... hmmmm.
Anybody have some words of wisdom?