Due to the weather-related reschedule of last Thursdays lesson (because no one wants to lesson when the high is 20), my first lesson of our month of dressage partial-training was on Tuesday. It wasn’t that much warmer, but with long underwear and a lot of technical layers, it wasn’t too terrible. I started off doing a lot of walk work to warm up, while Barbara was finishing up her previous lesson. Cally was actually feeling quite nice as we serpentined through the jump gymnastic set up for the evening jumping lessons. I was even more pleased when she started off with a pretty nice trot that had some stretch to it, and some back engagement, even if it wasn’t super supple. We made some big loose loops, in time to finish up and have a chat with Barbara about goals, both for the year and our month of training.
I want a horse that is more consistently engaged, and supple, and hopefully both of those things will also give us better transitions; I’d also like get used to riding with a bit longer stirrup, as it does help me sit better, it just leaves my leg feeling a little lost. Barbara really likes Cally, and thinks we can definitely make good progress–there’s absolutely no reason she shouldn’t be going consistently enough to be competitive at shows at Training this year. To that end, I mentioned looking at the VADA/NOVA show at Morven the beginning of April, and she said she had another student going, so I may actually be able to have her coach us, which I think would make a world of difference–if we can have the warmup get her going the way she goes in lessons, we definitely can pull the kinds of scores I know we’re capable of when we go into the ring.
Barbara then sent us back out to work, asking me what I’d be likely to do next if I was riding on my own, and just wanted to watch for a minute or so. So I said I’d probably move to an actual trot serpentine, as it really helps supple her up by letting her realize that bending is good, rather than by making her bend, because you can’t make her do things. Barbara concurred, that things most definitely need to be Cally’s idea, so we went to work with that plan in mind. We serpentined through the jumps again, and weren’t doing too badly, suppleness-wise. So she had me start thinking about engagement of the outside rein as we went through the bends and changes of direction, and using my outside leg for support as well. That started to get the bending thing through.
We then moved to a big 20M circle at one end of the ring, and she had me work on asking Cally to flex, just for a couple steps at a time, by opening my inside rein–bringing it OUT, not back–and applying inside leg, almost a hit of leg yield on the circle, then using my outside rein to keep her on track. It wasn’t easy at first, but Cally started to get it, and when it was good, it felt lovely.
We changed direction then, and it really started to click–suddenly I had a back coming up under me, and a round horse, for half the circle at a time. So Barbara asked us to change the exercise a little, going straight forward down the long sides, and just doing the bit of flexion into the corners. It took a time around or so, but then it was like it clicked, and holy wow, I had a horse up under me, swinging forward, not just looking but feeling fancy. I was riding around grinning like a fool, because it felt amazing.
Then we took a walk break, and discussed whether to work on confirming that response, or to start working on it a bit at the canter. My response was to try the canter, as that tends to be harder for her to be supple, so starting work on it now is good. We stayed on the 20M circle for that, and the first canter left was kind of hilariously not what the goal was, though we did get a little bit of softening at the end. I was not holding out high hopes for the right lead, as that tends to be the harder direction for her. Not today! It took a few circles, but then my goodness, I was sitting on top of a ball of energy, swinging forward around the circle. I’m not sure where that came from, or what happened to my horse, but I’m keeping this one! After a brief walk break, we tried the left lead again, and if anything, it was better than the right had been. It felt so easy then to sit up, and sit back, because I had something to sit up on, a nice round through back!
That was a great point to stop for the day, and I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of horse I have by the next lesson, as Barbara is riding her Thursday and Tuesday. If I can get that out of her in one lesson, I can only imagine what she can do!