As we're coming up on a year of me being back in the saddle, it appears this is going to stick. I had an evaluation with the chiro today and aside from my SI needing a bit of extra attention (learning to sit a proper collected canter on the proper seatbone is hard), she thinks I'm doing better now then I was a year ago. Taking that time off and focusing on getting my body repaired appears to have been the right move. Will I ever go back to riding 5 - 6 times a week? Probably not, but I can plan on my part-time riding continuing indefinitely. Chiro is feeling good about us holding off my inevitable surgery for a good long while yet.
I still feel like every lesson is a great big present all wrapped up in a bow. The week Theo came out with a crick in his neck and we spent the whole ride doing long, low body work to help him work it out? Wonderful. My last lesson where I worked on Theo letting go of his lower back so he could do a cleaner, more lofty canter? Perfect. The week I rode half passe to a flying change that damn near jumped me out of the saddle? Fantastic. I actually found my outside rein for the first time last week. That seems crazy for someone that's been riding as long as me but I picked him up on my outside rein and all of a sudden things started to make sense. As Trainer Z put it, he's finally ready to be ridden straight and it's really freaking cool to ride him like this.
One day I will be done posting about how damn cool it is to ride this horse right now but today is not that day.
The show schedule is up and I'm trying to pick dates for everything. I'm debating doing a show at Second just to get my show legs back before going for Third. Seems like a good idea. Trainer Z is aiming for the regional championships with her Second level freestyle and possibly Second level if the schedule works out. I'm just aiming to enjoy my showing. I'm hoping this is a chance for me to relearn showing in a more positive, less freaked the fuck out way. Due to my new rules, I can't show by myself anymore so I think that will help me start to associate showing with better experiences. I'm going to groom for the early shows in the season to help out and get back into the swing of things. I've only done one away show with Trainer Z, still need to learn her systems.
I'm kind of hoping I don't lose my feeling of extreme gratefulness any time soon. It really does change your perspective to think that you'll never get to ride again. Theo gave me a bit of hell in our last lesson as I asked him to do something hard and it was fine. He wasn't naughty, just reacting to the increased pressure as I get comfortable asking him for more. So far my only real limitation is that I can't let him get heavy. My upper body can't tolerate it. Good thing we graduated to his double and we have that skinny NS snaffle bit to keep him from deciding I should do half the work on snaffle days. And by that I mean he thinks I should carry half his weight. He's a big boy, that's a lot of weight.
With my chiro's blessing, I'm looking into scheduling a second ride each week. I need to get better if I want to show Third, a school master can only get you so far. We've started to uncover some of the stuff holding me back, the old baggage and issues that come with me skipping from touching Second to riding a tuned up Third level horse. I sometimes ride past-Theo. In some way, I haven't let past-Theo go because I wasn't there when it became past-Theo. The consistent training and educated rides have resulted in him really embracing his life as a dressage show horse. He comes into the arena expecting to work and eager to do it. Why? Hell if I know, that'll have to be a different post, but Theo happily marches into the ring with his tail swinging when it's time to work.
It's fun to chase the Bronze this way. I'm kind of in a rush but kind of not. He's 19 but our barn mate is doing PSG with her 23 year old mare. Theo is actually one of the youngest of the schoolmasters which reminds me that we still have a bit of time. I may not attempt Third until the fall. If I get to show at all, it will feel like a damn victory. But I have to buy a new show coat. I might have donated all my show clothes, thinking I would never need them again.