Today was all about transitions. Which is thankfully something we could work on at reasonably low speeds because A) Cally’s left front shoe isn’t as well affixed as one might hope (hallelujah, farrier is coming Thursday!) and B) she was more than a little frisky/spooky warming up. So we decided to just work at walk and trot, rather than trying to get her fired up then have to wait for her to settle at the canter. Oftentimes with her, discretion is the better part of valor.
Cally was being more than a little stupid-spooky–not really scared of anything, but trying to spook at things like poles, to see if she could get away with not working by acting like she was. Nope, not today, missy. We took a little extra time getting her warmed up, lots of walking, and she actually started off at the trot feeling pretty good, if a bit stiff and heavy to the left. So we went back o what we worked on last week, starting with our circle, and asking for inside flexion, then straightening, then a bit of outside flexion. And like magic, soft supple pony. Not sure what the deal is with that magic trick, but it really, really works. I mean, I get that counterbending is a useful tool, but even Barbara was amazed at how quickly she went from borderline-giraffey to dressage rockstar. That really needs to be a major point of our warmups from now on, because I don’t know exactly what it’s stretching out or popping loose (I certainly know I often need to pop my knees before I head out hiking), or if it’s just a mental thing for her, but it works, and I’m not one to question that too closely.
We then proceeded to work on the walk-trot transition. It’s not that she can’t stay through and round during the transition, it’s just way easier for her to use her massive neck and shoulder to sort of fling herself into it. So we went a few circles, asking for it from a nice round, connected walk, and got it maybe 50% of the time, when I was assertive enough about pre-empting the giraffe impression. Barbara then had the brilliant idea of suggesting just a bit of counterflexion as I asked for the transition. VOILA! Like magic, there it was, every time.
Once we were getting a better transition into the gait, we worked on transitioning within the gait, asking for a bit of lengthening, then shortening her up again. She’s sooooo easy to get to lengthen, and Barbara said she’s going to have lovely lengthenings when we really ask for a true one, rather than just a bit of it on a circle. But we used those in-gait transitions to then ask for a downward transition by shortening her up, into the walk. I’d never thought of it that way before, but I was told it was a good tool for ones that like to brace a bit in the down transition, because it’s a lot harder for the horse to do that then. Yet another tool for the toolbox!
Then we decided to try playing a bit with leg yield with her. We started to the right, since she’s easier that way, and while she was a little reluctant at first, we eventually got a few quite nice ones. Then we went to the left, and she’s really resistant to stepping over with that right hind, and pushing over. Hmm. I’ll have to see how she feels about that once she gets hind shoes back on. But eventually I managed to coordinate my aids enough to keep her shoulders straight and her hind end stepping over, and after a few good steps at the walk and trot, we called it good for the day. Barbara rides her Thursday, and I asked her to do a bit of lateral work with her, hopefully to really clarify what we worked on at the end of the lesson.
And that will be the end of boot camp, but for one lesson that was missed due to sub-freezing temperatures. We’re going to skip next week, and do it right before our next show outing, to hopefully be as ready as we can be for that. I’d like to try to keep up with at least two lessons a month with Barbara, as well as fitting in as many Kelley lessons a month as I can once my schedule changes. But that’s also going to affect my time availability with Barbara, so I’ll just have to see how that works out. I may put Cally into a bit of her own boot camp again while I’m on vacation this spring, I’ll just have to see how that budgets out. Because from a training perspective, I feel like we’ve made leaps and bounds this month, and could not be happier with our progress. I’ve never felt this confident going into a show year of where we’re headed, and the progress we’re going to be able to make as the year goes on.