Mostly because *I* rode like a fancy dressage rider today! Okay, fancy might be a stretch. Heck, dressage rider might even be a stretch. ;) But I rode better, therefore he went better :) :)
Cindy said that I had basically answered my own question about the outside rein. She said that I tend to override the left rein so when we track to the left, I tend to have no outside rein. So yes, I don't want to pull him to the rail, but I also can't abandon it. There needs to be a connection. Aha! She also pointed out that I needed to remember that when he doesn't do what I ask, it's appropriate to turn up the volume, but to remember to turn it back down and reward the smallest hint of an answer. So for example, when he is drifting in off the rail and won't get his left ribcage off my inside leg... it is okay to use my whip or thump him with the left leg. BUT... I can't keep thumping and using the whip until he's at the rail. Yes, I want him on the rail, but what I'm missing is that what I REALLY want is him to get off my inside leg. Therefore, as soon as he shifts his ribcage to the outside, I need to stop all my aids and reward. And I can't forget to then ask softly and reward. I do that when I am trying to quicken him up to my leg for the upward transition to the trot, but I get carried away with getting him to the rail. So I'm REALLY glad she reminded me of that. Yay! And obviously, it works. Because now he's already listening to my gentle leg pressure. And sure.. he's not going to the rail immediately, but that's his hard side. Baby steps.
At the trot she had us track down the quarterline and go straight. Ugh... that's hard!! She told me to stop worrying about the shoulders. And every time he drifted right and I corrected the front end, he would overcompensate and then I'd have to correct the other side. If I focused on the back end and rode the butt, creating impulsion for forward, I didn't have to correct the front. Duh, but harder to do well than to think. At least for me. Then we did some leg yielding on the quarter line and halfway through she said "now go straight!"! Ack!!! So much harder to go straight! hee hee. But we definitely need to work on that because our centerlines are awful. It's all about the engine.
Another helpful thing was to ride his withers rather than the direction. I was so worried about turning or getting to a certain spot, that I quit riding the butt. By focusing on keeping his withers between his shoulder blades, I rode him straighter and with more impulsion. Therefore he was much more balanced and it was easier to turn him.
Then we did a super fun exercise that made me giggle. She had us trot (and also canter) a circle at A. Then the second time through we made it a square. Then another circle and then a diamond. It was funny and interesting and a great exercise all at once. I laughed and said that someone watching me ride that didn't know probably just thought we were circling the whole time and just not very well. I'm sure they looked much more like 3 vague circles than a circle, a diamond, and a square. hee hee. But that's okay because it was super helpful. It helped me to ride the outside aids and it helped me focus on riding his withers rather than a direction. He seemed more upright, more "all legs under the table". Whoo hooo.
So a super great ride. He actually really felt like a real dressage horse and not just a spazzy baby octopus. :) Of course, he's probably saying the same thing about me. ;)
ha ha!!! I killed it!!! Teasing... he had just taken a big long sip of water, but my timing was hilarious.