As usual, the dressage gods have played their tricks on me. Owen returns after a mild winter, I decide to mount up, and in comes the severe winter weather to freeze the footing and leave a nice layer of snow on top of everything. Of course, the climate had been very favorable all winter until I decided to resume training.
Today the high never did approach freezing level with wind gusts up to 40 mph, causing the house to shake and bringing down yet more trees. But unlike most people, I like cold weather tho' I would like it better if we had all weather footing in the arena, and when the wind blows loud enough to deafen me and cause my eyes to water it really enervates me. After doing the barn chores I tacked up Owen, and with a quarter sheet for him and a balaclava for me we headed out to find suitable footing. The ring was frozen solid, but I'll school anywhere I can find a suitable 10 meters, so after hacking the farm perimeter I was pleased to find a nice linear stretch at the bottom of the hay field, which had the added benefit of being slightly sheltered from the worst of the wind.
Once again I played cat and mouse with my nemesis, the tempi change...my Moriarity, my Voldemort, and every other literary villain. In books, the hero eventually conquers the evil despite the odds...but I don't know that that is the ending in store for me and Owen. I rode Owen astride today, and found that while the changes were better, having a leg on either side did not facilitate them, so riding aside is not what is holding us back. Owen is sensitive and smart enough to perform the exercise, no matter what saddle I'm in, but for some reason it eludes us. I tried several methods, including our fall back, the tempis on the circle, as well as schooling them from the medium rather than the collected canter to give Owen more umpfh. He would manage three or four before diving onto his forehand. I doubt there is a physical reason for it, but it seems the more changes we do the higher his stress level becomes. He does find the changes easier after the halfpass, so I was able to canter a good 3/4 of a mile doing halfpasses of about three strides or so before asking for the change and the reverse halfpass.
Still, they aren't getting any easier, and I'm boggled about how to proceed. I must admit I'm pretty frustrated by it, and I'm sure there's a key to it but I can't find it. I'm going to consult with Dona about it; we've discussed this situation before, and she believes that sending Owen to a trainer would accomplish nothing, since I understand him better than anyone else and he would resent another trainer. However, it might be advantageous to see if we can find a "change master", an instructor who can with intensive teaching set us on the right path.
It's odd that he can perform a world class piaffe (some clinicians' words, not mine) but fails in a movement that is more natural to horses. So many experts state that the changes are not difficult and are actually more difficult for the rider than the horse, but at the moment I'm finding this doesn't reassure me much.
Perhaps that's the problem...am I making them more difficult than they need to be?