Okay.. I needed today. And while today wasn't exactly what I wanted, it was what I needed. Ahhhh....
And I almost didn't ride today. It is a high of 34 with the wind chill and 20 mph winds with higher gusts. BUT.. it was dry and sunny. Kelly messaged me saying the wind was "Inspirational" and asked if I still wanted to ride. I told her if she was going to be able to stay warm while teaching, I was happy to ride. Thank goodness she agreed. It was actually VERY pleasant today! Honestly.. Jess's farm must have been in some weird hole or something because the wind was not bad. Well, her arena.... Her arena wasn't bad. After our ride we hacked on her bridle trails and that was pretty windy. Or maybe the wind just died down for my lesson. Point is.. it was actually rather pleasant. Even when I watched Kelly ride Dan.
So... I told Kelly what was going on and how I was frustrated with the right rein hanging and inability to get him off my right leg and still not sure about whether there was still rein lameness and.... So.. she wanted to hop on. She said she was "curious". ha ha! Dan was a good boy for her and she spent some time working on getting him even in the connection, up through his back and feeling out what I was complaining about. Basically... I told her that I couldn't get him to "hang" his head into the bit. That he was "hanging" on the right rein but in a bad way and I couldn't get him to just soften and drop into the connection in the good "hanging" way. :) So she played around and felt him out.
Basically what it boils down to is that he is not reactive enough (or at all) to my right leg. And I'm too active with my left leg. So at least props to me yesterday for getting after him some for not reacting to my right leg... albeit way too aggressively and not in a good training way. :( So... she got him bending around her right leg and reacting to it and reaching into the bridle and lifting his back and using his hind end and basically being lovely. And then I got to get back on. She told me to stop knitting... My fingers were not allowed to wiggle to get him into position... because while it worked, it only worked for a second. So... if we were at the end of our medium trot across the diagonal and he started to get a little above the bit and rushy, I could wiggle my fingers a bit then. But otherwise.... a wiggle here and a wiggle there turns into knitting. And Princess's don't knit! So... My hands and elbows belong to me and they should be steady. Kelly had me create a triangle.. with wide hands and his nose as points. My goal is to ride the shoulders between my hands. Don't worry about his nose, ride the shoulders. But the wide hands help direct the shoulders which helps direct the nose. So.. when we tracked right.... I pushed his ribcage out with my right leg. Not his haunches.. not his shoulder, but his ribcage. If he didn't respond, a tap with the whip behind the leg. She made it a point to tell me that I'm not riding harder when he doesn't react... because then I have to work harder and he gets to work less. So instead of kicking harder... I just tap with the whip. Then I ask again nicely with the same pressure and if I still don't get yielding to my leg, tap with the whip. He eventually figured out it was easier to just respond to my leg. And it wasn't perfect and it wasn't every time, but it was better than before. She also told me... and this is big so I will high light it... If I ask for something and he tries even 1%, reward that one percent. Soften and reward lightly. And then tomorrow ask for another 1%. And in 100 days, we'll be at 100%! And obviously we're not going to get 1% every day and there will be days we back track, but the point is... Reward the Try, so he keeps Trying!! So anyways... When we are tracking right, I do have to pull his nose in a little to initiate the bend, but the majority of the aids are from my right leg. She did make me feel better about it. She said that because he wasn't reacting to my right leg, I pulled his nose in to create bend. And because he was still not bending around my leg, I felt it, but attempted to correct it by pulling harder on the inside rein. She said we all do it. So.. I need to address the lack of bend to the right by engaging that right rib cage. So... mental note.. when I notice myself hanging on the right rein and having to pull him into the bend, (especially tracking right), I need to stop and realize it's the right rib cage that's not bending and address it at the girth. And yes.. I realize I've been told this repeatedly by multiple people. Part of why I get soooo frustrated at myself. Why do I keep doing this crap? I have 3 trainers.. I take lessons all the time... Why do I still suck so badly at the main simple components of riding?!?! Why can't I progress?? Ugh.. anyways... tracking right, I also have to remember to not throw away the outside rein. It doesn't need to go forward. It's the outside rein that creates bend. So...under Kelly's tutelage we got some really nice bend and I was able to soften and holy moly!!! He felt amazing... He was supple, he was hanging like a chandelier in my hands, his back was up... And I was sitting his trot and even for only a few circles my abs were killing me because he was that engaged and soft and supple and through. Yay!! So then tracking left.. it's the same thing. Triangle hands. This way he tends to fall in or bulge out, so I actually will have to direct his shoulders back into the circle by counter bending his rib cage and making my triangle go backwards. :) Counter flexion if you will. But only for a second. We got some nice stuff this way too. Oh, and... I need to be careful that I'm timing my aids correctly. I can't just kick, kick, kick at him.. I have to time my kicks with the rhythm. For example, my right leg aid needs to happen when my left hip comes forward.
So yep... a very educational and helpful ride. It sucks but sometimes taking a step back and doing a walk (and tiny bit of trotting) is a very helpful lesson.
Danny seemed to enjoy himself too and he felt quite nice. So hopefully I can sneak in a ride tomorrow and work on it some more before my lesson with Cindy. It's easier to do at the walk and then I get to working and trotting and moving forward with my ride and fall back into all my bad habits.