Today was a great day!
My lesson started out frustrating. Danny and I had warmed up and were starting to trot and he was crooked. He felt like his left ear was lower, so he was tipping his head, and falling in on my left leg (tracking left). It was driving me bananas because I couldn't get him to straighten up. I thought I was trying to do the right stuff, like shorten the outside shoulder, but then he wouldn't bend to the inside... and I knew my left rein was threatening (and succeeding) in crossing over his neck. Cindy was telling me to fix it but wasn't telling me HOW to fix it. And clearly I was getting frustrated and not able to think through it and fix it myself. Even though she has given me all the tools. Repeatedly. ;) And was even giving me hints.
So anyways... before I got really irritated, I stopped and told Cindy what I was feeling and that I knew I needed to fix it but couldn't remember how. So... she told me instead of focusing on his left ear dropping... focus on his right ear getting higher. And to get him round on the outside rein and shorten the right side of his body. Oh yeah... bells are ringing again now.. And that once he is round on the right/outside rein... then I can ask for flexion. Because I was either getting the even ears or left flexion... not both. The key though was to NOT do one or the other... I would shorten the right side of his body and fix that, but then when I went to ask him for flexion, my right hand would immediately fly forward and lose the connection. So we were beebopping between the two. Ah...... Got it!
Sure enough... when I started riding the right side of his body (and interestingly.... even when tracking right) by lifting my right hand a little bit at certain times and keeping that right sided connection... then asked for flexion and pushed the inside barrel into my outside rein... he started to get even and it got so much better!!! Yay!!!
So we got some really nice stuff and some resistance too, but... lots of really nice stuff. I was also working hard on my seat and legs... and what I did with Isabel. It was hard though. But I'm trying. And again Cindy pointed out that it's not shoving my heels down and pushing down.. it's allowing the up and down movement and almost feeling the pulse of the horse, even alternating a little in my seat bones and lifting... rather than shoving down into the saddle and my heels. Which to me... translated to turning my knees in and trying to grip with my cranial calves. But not a constant grip.. that was another mistake I was making. Cindy reminded me to pulse with the horse.. not just hold on for dear life. And also point my toe in.
We worked on the canter too. And wow! It got really quite nice too. Same thing in the trot with the reins and the ears. We worked on the transitions into the canter. He has got to stay round. But more importantly.. *I* have to ask for him to do it round. I keep throwing away the contact when I ask, so he happily inverts into it. When I ask with the outside rein connection and keeping him round... he can do it. He's not happy about it, but he can. And if I can maintain the connection and keep him round AND keep my leg on and not bounce out of the saddle nor shove down into the saddle... he really has a super nice canter!! So... when I get my heels and seat right... and Dan stays round... if I focus on lifting in the canter wave instead of staying in the saddle, but while keeping my heels soft and supple... my butt behaves and doesn't bounce out of the saddle.
We also did a tiny bit of shoulder in and haunches in and... the whole "Ride both sides of the horse" really was highlighted here. I know that when I ask for HI or SI, I forgot to ride with the leg I'm not using... but sooooo important to give them something to bend around. Duh! And I was able to catch it today before/as Cindy was telling me. Yay! It wasn't always correct, but there were a few steps where we nailed it. Yahoo!!
We also did some more trot lengthen work and Cindy said that in eventing... we are aiming to gradually build to a trot lengthen. But in dressage.. it better be POW... Right out of the corner!! I should be half halting not building and kicking for more. So.. we tried. We collected and shortened and got bouncy in the corner. Then POW! out of the corner. The first time he cantered, but... when I brought him back and kicked on... WOW!!! He actually maybe even did a medium trot! Not just a trot lengthen. :) :) :) Yay!
So yep... Lots of good work. Oh, and then on the stretchy trot... Cindy said that he needs to stretch into the contact.. not me stretching and then pulling back on the reins to get him into the connection. So we worked on that a little bit but he was being a butt and kept snaking after Guiness or Vinny so we gave up.
yay!!! He was really fun today though. He felt so grown up. And like a proper dressage horse!