A very productive weekend, horse-wise. Not an easy one, but a productive one!
Friday I went out to ride, after rescheduling with a friend. The whole goal was tempo and balance, and we ... sort of succeeded. In hindsight, after Sunday's lesson, we didn't succeed at all, but I worked really hard at it.
Saturday was a very fun day. I got to the barn around 1:30, and as 2:00 got closer, people started arriving in floods! Turns out that MT was teaching a 2:00 jumping lesson that somehow ended up involving just ponies -- maybe just-barely-horses, but still. :) I love watching jumping lessons, partially because it's fun in its own right, but partially because I want to soak up as much information as I can and make my own return-to-real-jumping as easy as possible. So after I longed Rev, I took her outside, mounted up, and watched the jumping lesson from outside the arena. It's good for her to learn to stand and wait, and she was quite good about it! She did look around and get a little tense a couple of times, but I distracted her by having her move around, etc., and that took care of it. MT commented on how good she'd been, which was nice.
At one point, the working student looked over and said "You look like you're ready for an ambush!" I'd just redirected Rev's attention from something she was about to get too tense over, just by talking to her and wiggling the bit, so my response was "I am! They're lurking." I wasn't really kidding, either. I know Rev sometimes gets in the mood to spook -- she's not a spooky horse, but sometimes she decides it would be fun to play and spook at things. I don't care for riding that sort of thing, so I'll head it off if I can -- be ready for things Rev wants to be ambushed by, and keep her from ambushing me. :) Sometimes I feel like I have to have, in the words of Alastor Moody, constant vigilance! I'll be able to almost-completely relax on her one of these days, but for the moment ... she's 5.
So after we watched the lesson, we went in to work. Again, focus on tempo and energy, and my balance. We did better than we had on Friday, certainly, especially when I got my balance. Of course, after Sunday's lesson, I think we should have done more, but ... experience is the thing you get right after you need it. :)
I also talked to MT and TW about the fit of my saddle -- I learned some new things about where it ought to go and about my horse's back. I had no idea she was such a round horse. XD It's odd: my Collegiate Diploma jumping saddle is a medium-narrow and fits her nicely. My Courbette de Kunffy Grand Prix dressage saddle is a medium and is a bit too narrow. Hunh. Interesting. We'll see if she finishes her wither-growing this year and how it affects saddle fit. Meanwhile, when the County fitter comes out again this spring, I'll get my Courbette reflocked to fit her a little better. (And see how County saddles fit her and me; if they fit great, I'll start saving.) I really do like when TW and MT are in talking moods, because I always learn something interesting. And heaven knows that I need to learn more things -- and heaven ALSO knows that I love to learn things!
So Sunday, obviously, we had a lesson. This one was all about tempo and energy, with a small side of Longing in Side Reins: How and Why, and a topping of Weight Aids.
Now I know what to look for when I ride. And it's more than I'd been getting. I'm glad I have this yardstick, for sure -- I know she has a beautiful trot, and of course I can't see her feet when I'm riding to know where she is with it. So now I know what I'm looking for and what it feels like. She's not real excited about giving it, so I have to work at it.
MT gave me a couple of tools for getting there -- first, he mentioned that if I don't have any contact in my reins, she'll raise her head, pin her ears, and start swishing her tail. I'm not sure if this is a general purpose comment or if it only applies to when I use my stick on her, but having soft contact can't possibly be a bad idea, so I'll take it and run with it.
The second thing he suggested was that if she starts resisting and slowing down, despite my leg aid and weight aid, I should hop off her and put her right back on the longe line and basically push the GO button, get her moving. Get her into a relaxed, forward, energetic trot with her back swinging and her attitude improved, then get back on her. Lather, rinse, repeat until she moves forward under saddle. I'll definitely work that this week and see how she does.
Good news, though: MT commented when he rode her that she feels a lot better to him than she did the week before, so there's progress! Woot! He thinks, and I agree, that longing in side reins is having a great effect, so we'll press on with that.
If we can get the forward energy back, I think we can make some real progress. One thing I noticed in the jumping lesson was the emphasis on steady tempo before and after fences -- which I know about and know is important and why -- but somehow it'd not occurred to me that that's part of what we're shooting for here. Part of it.
So I find myself motivated -- there's a noticeable change in my horse, which is extremely positive. There's something to shoot for in the foreseeable future. And in the short term future, if I can get her forward energy going, she'll be WAY easier to ride, way more fun. Can do.