The sun peaked out again today long enough for me to hack both horses out on the trails behind the barn. Emmy started out light but dropping her left shoulder, which she was reluctant to correct and in turn tried to hang on the bit and "pretend" like she had picked it up (sorry Emmy, the rouse is up...it didn't work lol) Her canter started off ok and then went down hill a little when she started pulling again. We fixed that right up though with some canter-walk-canter transitions and then went a step further to a left lead canter-walk-right lead canter simple changes all down the path. At the end, I got up into my "hunter seat" and asked her for her hack canter. She stretched out lovely, stayed light in the bridle and came right back to a walk when I sat down and told her
"woah." It's refreshing to ride her after dealing with Johnny's quirks...
...And speaking of which, I'm starting to get frustrated with both him and myself. I took him out after dinner and hacked the same route that I did with Emmy. Our trots weren't bad except that he couldn't focus to save his life going away from the barn and kept cocking his head sideways to look at something, where in he would then trip over his own feet and almost fall of his face. I tried my best to keep his attention by working the bit softly in his mouth and keeping him between my legs, but when he tunes you out, man does he tune you out...and it doesn't matter what you're doing, he will just blow through your aids with no regard for anything. In the end, our trots were pretty good, until I asked him to trot through some puddles on one side of the trail and he FREAKED out and would swing his hips and leap out of them every time. Seriously Johnny? How many times do we have to walk through the tiny puddle, stand in it, back through it, leg yield through it before you he can just trot through it straight? About million, that's how many, and the only thing I ended up accomplishing was a semi-straight walk through the puddles. Honestly, it's maybe 2 feet long and an inch deep....he's not afraid of water, he's just being ridiculous.
When I finally got half of the response I wanted at the puddles I quit with that and decided to canter him to clean his head. His left lead canters were utter crap...flat and sprawly and running...it didn't matter what I did, he would just hang on me an pull into his hideous Standardbred trot. He wasn't listening at all. In the end, I ended up doing canter-walk-canter transitions, a few times where I had to really sit back and tell him that when I ask him to walk I MEAN IT the first time...not 2039821083209 strides of pulling later. (Surprisingly he threw the right lead multiple times and those canter were quite good for a bad lead) but in general, it was a really frustrating schooling session today. I don't know if part of this is just the lack of suitable riding ground, the lack of work, or the lack of my skills as a rider? We can essentially rule out physical problem because there's nothing wrong with him and it's not like he's working any harder now than he was before. Nothing at all has changed except for being home where he doesn't get ridden as much. Regardless of what may be causing it, we are hitting mental road blocks which were never in the way before. I used to always say that I loved having a gelding now (I'd always had mares before Johnny) because he came out of the stall the same way every day and he got better and better with each ride. Having never owned a gelding, I just assumed that's how they all were but anymore, Emmy is the one being consistent here and Johnny is flying all across the board. I almost want to just turn him out for a little while and start over, but my gut feeling tells me that we've finally come to that point in his training where he's either going to work through this and it's all going to click and get good, or we are going to give up and stay mediocre forever. Turning him out or giving him time off wouldn't help that situation, because eventually, he'd get right back to the same spot again.
Has anyone else had this problem with their STB or even just their normal horse? I don't even know what to do with him right now. I think I'm going to bite the bullet and take him next door tomorrow to use their outdoor ring (say goodbye to $15...) to try and address the issue as best I can...even though their ring is on a hill.