Horses I Have Known: Part 15?
Riding Toby under Lockie Richards's wise council was always a revelation. He soon decided that Toby needed the challenge of moving up in the levels to keep his mind as occupied as his body.
So, one lesson, on a sunny summer afternoon, Lockie decided we were ready to do flying changes. That was shortly after he decided we were also ready to do canter half passes and had us doing them in both directions in a matter of minutes.
Now, mind you, I had already trained and ridden all of these movements on Russell R, and then PJ, so he was not dealing with a total novice as far as the exercises were concerned. Please note that all of that makes a HUGE difference in pushing a horse's training.
Apparently, Lockie saw something in Toby's stage of training that told him it was time. All he had me do was ride a circle at one end of the arena at the canter, and then ask for a change of bend and a change of lead on crossing the centerline. That was all there was too it. It took Toby all of a minute to give me a flying change. And, unlike PJ, he offered one in the other direction just as easily.
They weren't ideal changes and the second time we tried it, he let fly with some bucks, but they were flying changes, that's for sure. No big deal. Little fuss, little bother.
It took lots of practice after that lesson to get the changes solid and always when I wanted them, but Toby was never a difficult train about them. Nor was he difficult when it came to the tempi changes as we progressed to the upper levels. He did not get excited or upset about making a change, so learning to do them every four, then every three, and finally every two strides was not particularly hard. Even today, when he is not fit, he will do tempis on cue. I don't ask for them often, because they do require some work on the horse's part and it's just not fair to make those demands of an unfit horse, but he is a master of them.
Unfortunately, Toby's conformation is not ideal for dressage. He is, indeed, a lovely mover at all three gaits, but his neck is set lower than it needs to be. Getting him up in front, carrying his weight on his hind end, is not his natural way of going. The constant need for rebalancing put an extra strain on his hocks and there were a number of times he had problems because of soreness.
We competed through Intermediare I with very moderate success--scores in the mid 50's, so we were adequate. But, as far as I was concerned, it reached a point where I simply did not want to push him anymore.
I'm really glad I stopped his intense training when I did. Now, at age 20, he still feels as sound as he did as a youngster. I consider that fact one of my major accomplishments of horsemanship.