Last night's ride was marginally successful. In my lesson on Saturday, we were working on a shallow-loop serpentine over ground poles -- the exercise is about accuracy, bending/straightness, tempo, and balance. We can be accurate, mostly, but the rest of it is a challenge. I couldn't get my weight aids sorted out -- sometimes not at all, sometimes just not quickly enough; I wasn't turning her correctly with my whole torso & hips turning; my rein contact wasn't even or consistent; my rein aids weren't correct; and she loses tempo and impulsion with me when we're riding curved lines.
The turning-with-my-torso thing was easiest to fix. Of course, it helps when I have not so many things to do that I can keep my leg on correctly (inside of my thigh, knee, and calf in contact, draped adhesively, as de Kunffy writes, rather than pulling my knees up and pinching with the back of my calf and my heel) -- that makes EVERYTHING easier, if I have the correct base to work from. That's my main goal for this month: work that base. Get that muscle memory going, so I don't have to think about it so much. From there, I have a much better platform to work from. So that's workable, and I'm able to do it in practice fairly consistently. Exceptions are when we're going right and she's really resisting, really counterbending.
The weight aid is the next element I need to fix -- it's really like I'm trying to build from the ground up. MT suggested that I should put my right seatbone directly in the middle of her spine to really heavily weight that right seatbone ... I wasn't able to do it much in the lesson, but I worked on it really hard last night. I don't know if I was doing it right or wrong, but I know something was happening, because the muscles on the right side of my back were sore afterward, in that sort of I-haven't-been-used-and-now-this? way. I tried hard to keep my torso upright and not collapse to the outside while I did all this, and I think I succeeded most of the time. The more solid seat and leg helps in this, although when the circles get smaller -- requiring more bend -- things start to go to hell fairly quickly.
I did a couple of exercises that I thought were particularly useful -- a modified sort of figure eight, where we'd ride a 15-meter half circle, diagonal straight line through X, 15 meter half circle, then back through X diagonally. I'd started with the more correct 20 meter left circle - few steps straight - 20 meter right circle, but I, and as a result Rev, wasn't able to shift my weight and change the bend that quickly and still keep it correct. I thought the half-circle/straight line figure 8 helped quite a bit -- we were able to do much better, and it did indeed give both of us a workout.
I wasn't happy with her tempo, though it was mostly better than it'd been on Sunday -- that's not saying much, really, because I had absolutely nothin' on Sunday. So I worked hard on keeping her moving forward and relaxed through curved lines, and I had a little success. Not quite sure what the key is there. There's got to be something I'm doing wrong, because MT can get a good even rhythm and impulsion throughout the ground pole serpentine exercise on her, but I can't. Clearly this is my failing, and I'm not sure how to fix it.
Second, in the end, I wasn't entirely satisfied with our ride, but it was getting late and she'd sweated through her not-insignificant outer coat as well as her undercoat. So we did some small right circles at the walk. I wasn't as concerned about where the circle went or how big it was or whether she wandered ... I was focused entirely on where my right seatbone was (middle of her spine), where my legs were (rotated inward, inside leg at girth, outside leg behind the girth guarding the haunches), and giving the correct rein aid (little gives and takes on the right rein, allowing her to keep the bend as long as she could, then asking again). By focusing on that and keeping the circle small, things went from terrible, to bad, to wavery, to okay, and then to two small instances of softness and real bend! Tiny, momentary instances, that you would probably have missed if you were watching, but ... they happened. At that, I let her quit. Maybe I should have kept pushing to get more of them, but I thought that the effort should be rewarded.
So we'll see how we do tonight. I plan to work more on my seat/leg, turning correctly, and weight aids. I'll probably use the figure eight exercise again, too, and some large one-loop serpentines. And I'll work on getting a canter depart, too. Just ... keep on trying. That's all I can do, eh?