Two weeks ago, I was on Banjo (as usual right now). Since I'm officially riding solo in my lesson right now (instead of just having a perpetually-AWOL classmate), my schedule's a little different: in theory, with three students it's an hour, with two it's 45 minutes, and with one it's 30 minutes. However, instead of 'you can't take the horse in' until it's that time, you go in and just walk/exercise the horse before your lesson begins.
So for half an hour, I walked Banjo around in various patterns, engaged in my own practices like dropping the stirrups and collecting them again, etc. When my lesson began, we worked on some posture stuff.
My two perpetual weaknesses are that -- on Banjo especially, since he's a very 'downhill' horse -- I tend to glance down when he changes gait to see what he's up to, and that my left ankle doesn't seem to want to bend quite the same way as my right (which, unfortunately, means I sometimes get out-of-place on that stirrup). So we spent the first part of the lesson working on that ankle, and on 'keep your eyes up!'
From that, we moved on to cantering. I still had some trouble getting Banjo off on the right lead when cantering to the left, due to his stiffness, but after a couple of false starts we were off and running. (Ha ha.) We cantered around a lot, but that wears me out because Banjo will drop to a trot in the corners, so I have to keep pressure on... and Banjo is a small horse, so keeping pressure on properly is harder than on a larger horse (like Roman or Chester).
When we both seemed a bit cantered-out, we changed to jumping practice. My crest release, alas, still needs some work, though it improved somewhat over the course of the jumping practice. My real problem is that I glance down just after Banjo lands, and so I lose finer steering... which lets him cut the corners. Back to 'eyes up!' practice...
When we finished, Banjo had really had a workout... and so had I. But unfortunately, Banjo hadn't been clipped for a few weeks, and so he was back to Golden Retriever fur, and literally /dripping/ sweat. Grooming him was an adventure: it took two hours, thirteen towels, a box cooler, a spray bottle of rubbing alcohol and a hand-held hair dryer (which led to blowing out the fuses in the barn no less than six times). By the end, he had three people -- myself, my friend Brooke (a stable helper) and the instructor -- all working on him. Banjo hates the hair dryer, so he got several horse cookies to mollify him for having to tolerate it for two hours.
Worse, I smelled that telltale thrush scent, so even though it wasn't visibly apparent, he also got an extra-thorough going-over on the hooves, and a hoof treatment. (Hoof strengthener that also has the Green Stuff Of Doom in it.)
At the end, I begged Brooke to clip Banjo before my next lesson, for both his sake and mine.
This past week, I showed up late: traffic was abysmal, and I arrived only about 5 minutes before I should have been in the ring. I discovered Banjo had indeed had a very nice short haircut, Brooke having gotten out the clippers several days earlier. He seemed happy about it, since things have been warming up anyway. And I was thrilled to discover that the incipient thrush had cleared up and his hooves were fine again.
Groomed him as quickly as I could without being careless, and only got into the ring about 8-10 minutes late. Since I'm solo, this luckily only cut into free-ride/warm-up time! We followed mostly the same formula as the previous week -- working on posture, specifically the ankle and 'eyes up!' and then cantering and jumping.
This week, we only got off on the wrong lead once in cantering, which is significant progress. And we managed an entire sequence without him slowing down to gaze hopefully at the gates out of the ring. ("Okay, I've worked now, can I go get food?")
Jumping, I still find I'm just not as secure jumping Banjo as I am Roman. Roman, for all that he's a brat, I know he and I are perfectly in sync and I feel reasonably well-balanced on his back. Banjo is so downhill and so short and stocky that I don't feel as well-balanced as on Roman. (This is, of course, part of why I'm doing jumping on Banjo: I get complacent on Roman, because I know what I expect.)
When we finished, Banjo wasn't sweaty at all -- to my undying relief -- and so grooming went about as quickly as it ever does with the funny little half-Fjord. Though his hooves had cleared up, I gave him an iron hoof treatment just to make certain it didn't come back, before I put him away.
Roman, as ever, expressed his displeasure that Banjo was getting HIS cookie, setting up a huge racket. I did my best to ignore the ruckus that Roman stirred up, this time, and he quieted down and watched me with a very injured expression. When I finished, though, I still went and gave him his treats and sat with him for a little bit.
Coalby also got a good little visit this past week, since she expressed her 'Okay, I need attention and affection NOW' by reaching out and grabbing my sleeve to pull me over near her stall.
Since traffic was so horrible, leaving 'on time' would still have gotten me home later, and I decided I'd rather spend the time waiting for traffic to clear up with the horses than stuck on the road. :)