Somehow, between the winter weather, I’ve been managing to do a much better job than normal with keeping my current charge exercised and on a forward path. The weather is making it difficult to follow the normal progression, seeing as we haven’t been able to ride outside in weeks, and trails are out of the question right now. But judging from our lesson last night, the forward progress is faster than normal and she’s going to be a show horse before we know it.
I got to the barn a little late last night – and had to rush because I also had to fit in an antibiotic injection for my cat beforehand, but I managed to have her back up the driveway and ready only about 30 seconds late for our lesson. Phew! Fortunately, rushing her through tacking up doesn’t seem to bother her any – it gets my horse all flustered and is a bad way to start a ride, but she seems pretty agreeable to whatever I throw at her.
We warmed up without a lot of wandering – I tried to focus on steady contact from the get go, even at the walk. As we got started in the lesson she showed she remembered the previous one, and has built some strength since then – she offers to put her head down and stretch very easily now, without pulling, and she stays nice and soft. We practiced bending and counterbending, and also slowing/collecting the trot until she was barely trotting at all. For a horse with such good brakes, this was haaaaard. It took massive amounts of leg to keep her in the trot and not brake to the walk. After doing that, we alternated moving back forward into a big trot, or halting after the slow trot. Keeping her on her toes, but also keeping her engaged at that slooooow trot and capable of the transitions, was quite hard work (and I think a lot for her baby brain!).
A couple times I had to really reinforce my leg with my dressage whip, as she was sluggish to move back up into a regular trot, but after a couple repetitions she got it pretty well.
Her canter transitions are getting much more immediate and much better. One thing I love is that even when she knows what you want, she doesn’t speed up or run at the trot to fall into the canter – she just steps right up into it.
We did more work at the canter last night, including some figure eights and asking her pointedly to pick up the correct lead promptly. I fail at this a little because I am crooked in my body naturally, which makes that left lead harder than it would otherwise be. Another thing I have trouble with is my upper body – I tend to pump at the canter and it is very hard to keep my upper body still and quiet. Especially on a horse whose natural tendency is to slow down!
So we worked on me a fair bit too, and on actually sitting the canter, without pumping, while simultaneously asking for more contact and a rounder, more correct gait (I stand by the assertion that she has the best canter ever, even if it needs a little polishing!).
We finished the lesson with some relaxed trotting on a long rein – she actually stretched right down and we finished with a few circles of stretchy trot while she relaxed (the canter work got her a little “riled” up, so I wanted to let her exhale a bit before we finished).
I wish more people had been around last night to help with video! She is coming along fantastically! More jumping this weekend, and I will definitely get video of that!