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I had a dressage lesson with Carol today.  Due to work and my totally crashing on Monday and sleeping til 4PM, well past my “traffic window” to get out to the barn, instead of coming to the lesson after a day of hacking out, she came to the lesson after four days off.  And she was not in the mood for circles.  So rather than necessarily being the lesson to work on transitions that I wanted to have, it became a lesson in getting her to be responsive and listen to my aids, even when she’s not being good.  Making lemonade, if you will.

It started off ok, just a little stiff on the left, her harder direction, and resistant to coming up into contact.  So we spent a good while at the walk before even attempting to trot, and worked on me not giving away my elbows in the transition.  It wasn’t bad work, it just wasn’t great, with a very swishy tail and a bit of ear pinning.  You usually can’t tell when she’s in season, but we’re wondering if perhaps that’s the case, because she otherwise felt great and sound; we changed to her easier right side to see if that would help loosen her up a little.  It certainly did, and we progressed to the point of moving from lengthening to getting a few steps of baby collection, to moving back to a medium trot.  At that point, we switched back to the left, where it was much easier to get her going well.  She was still very reactive, and when I asked her to move from a medium to a few steps of collection and back again, we ended up with a canter transition!  I tried again, a little quieter in the aids, and we got it, twice.

It was when we moved to canter work that the wheels really fell off.  She seems to pick one corner of the indoor to be a spooky idiot about every time we ride, and this time she decided to be an idiot about the corner between F and A.  So rather than a nice quiet canter depart, we ended up with something like a “leap into the incorrect lead and bolt across the ring” maneuver.  My initial response is to go ahead and have that fight with her if she wants to have it, but as Carol pointed out, when Cally tries to pick a fight, she comes out with gloves on.  So I worked very hard on sitting up there and doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing, and ignoring her attempts to shoot sideways across the ring.  We had one more really ugly depart/bolt/leap, but Carol had me send her forward, wrong lead and all, until it was a nice canter, then come back, and pick it up again.  Still not perfect, but far less dramatic.  We ended up doing a LOT of canter work, transitioning between it and the trot until the canter was at least well behaved and going where I wanted her to go, rather than where she wanted to go.  It did give me a good opportunity to work on my position at the canter; trying to open your chest while thinking of kneeling with your inside knee is difficult, because at least to me they feel kind of incompatible.  But when I worked out the body logistics, we actually got some very nice canter.

We’ve got another lesson scheduled for Friday, the day before our last PVDA schooling show of the season.  I’ve asked to do a bit of jumping, to clear out her brain a little and get her working outside the little white ring, because I’m thinking she’s also feeling just a little sick of making circles and spirals and squiggles.  Hopefully that should brighten her up a little!

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