As you might guess from the subject line, his coat has already grown back. I really want to meet whoever thought a Norwegian Fjord and Quarterhorse cross was a good idea... and ask them what on earth they were thinking. Banjo's got a thick, curly coat that looks like it belongs on a golden retriever puppy. And it collects sweat, mats down, and is an absolute nightmare to clean.
We started out the lesson working on improving points of posture. Working on refining ankle position at the two-point, mostly; it's something I can do when I'm concentrating, but it's not yet second-nature. This sort of posture-time is also when I work on actually getting Banjo warmed up. I tried not to be so softhearted this time, and to force him to actually GO. After a bit of reluctance, he did.
Once he'd warmed up and I'd finished with posture practice, it was time to move on to cantering. We started out cantering to the right, which is very easy on Banjo, though he'll try to slow down as he heads right at the gate in and out of the arena. I really had to work to keep him from dropping to a trot or a walk in that corner, but did manage it on the last two laps. Yeek. I was told to be really relentless on stopping that behavior, because it's actually become a bad habit for Banjo that needs to be corrected.
Then we walked a lap or two, and it was on to cantering to the left. The first five or so times I tried, we got off on the wrong lead, and I had to drop to a trot, pull a sharp circle, and canter out of the trot at the end of the circle to correct the lead. The last two, though, I finally got him off on the right lead, by starting the canter while he's bent to take one corner of the arena. Whew!
We stopped and walked patterns for a while to let us both cool off, and then I found out I'd be jumping Banjo this week.
Now, I like jumping. But I hate doing it on Banjo most times. This is because, unlike Roman, Banjo does not particularly enjoy jumping. With Roman, I can trust that as we go over a jump he's not going to take the excuse to drop from a trot to a walk or whatever. Banjo, I not only have no such faith, but I know that chances are he /will/ try that.
As a result, I have a bit of a flaw in my jumping on Banjo: when we've gone over the jump, I will almost invariably glance down to check what he's up to. When I drop my eyes, I lose the ability to steer the horse through balance, and Banjo inevitably tries to cut to the left. It's something I really can't stop, just a habit... and my instructor is well aware of it, and quite adamant about breaking me of this habit. Thus, jumping Banjo this week.
First, she had me trotting laps and curving in to go over a single X-type jump. It took a few before I managed to get over without involuntarily looking down, but we got it. I felt I had a victory. The instructor agreed, but then set up a second course with two X jumps; now I had to ride around half a lap, curve in to go over one X, ride straight out to touch the wall, curve in for another X, and then ride straight out to touch the wall and stay there for half the arena until reaching the first jump again.
I immediately went back to my old ways on the second jump. Doh. But after about four laps that way, I managed to keep my eyes up even landing on the second jump, and we called it a day. I was told my progress was noticable and that I should be pleased. I am. I am also tired. :)
Grooming Banjo afterwards was a real hassle, though, because he had gotten matted with sweat. Had to use a cooler and walk him in the ring, then use towels, then the cooler again (while I left someone to watch him and went to clean his tack), then a blow-dryer, then more towels. It was an hour-long production.
The only real hassle, other than the length of time it took, was when I went to turn Banj around so the blow-dryer could reach the other side. Banjo decided to go be social with Coalby, whose stall we were right by. Coalby, as I have mentioned, is neurotic. I immediately saw Bad Things ahead, and moved in close to grab Banjo's halter to try and pull him away. Alas, not fast enough, as Coalby made this great spit-and-snot SNORT of doom, clearly conveying the message 'Get OUT of my face, RIGHT NOW.'
Banjo, startled, made a sort of 'yeep!' noise and backed up quickly, rearing up slightly. He backed up so quickly, in fact, that he whacked my right arm with his knee where I held the halter. Ow. My right forearm is a very nice bruise. Luckily, I was deliberately standing so that there was no conceivable way a hoof could easily have reached me.
But when Banjo was finally groomed, I gave the instructor her holiday gift (a very sturdy vacuum-sealed mug suitable for stable use, and a Starbucks card with $25 on it), then fed the usual suspects and headed home. Good week. Tired now, though. :)