The title is sage advice from our resident European. :) Asking for one pro ride a week may have been the smartest thing I've done since buying this horse, honestly. Apollo is clever, talented, and rather green for his age. So having A ride him has been really, really good for Apollo -- and for me. I got to watch A ride him this last ride, and it was quite instructive.
I mean, I know I need to ask for more-more-more forward, always. But actually seeing it in action and seeing how A developed it was helpful. He had only the lightest of contact at first, letting Apollo get his hind end engaged and round up on his own. Then, once he'd gotten that going, he started asking for more and more contact, more connection from the hind end through to the hand. Again, obvious in theory, but good to watch in practice.
It was also nice to see that Apollo pulls the same things with A that he does with me: getting fussy about working hard, trying to overbend his neck on the right rein and avoid actual bend by popping his left shoulder out, getting pissy about going back to work if you halt and wait a few minutes to chat or whatever, etc. Obviously, A deals with it better than I do, but this is not to imply that I don't deal with it adequately. :) And watching how Apollo worked through those issues was rewarding!
A was also really helpful in telling me what he was doing and how he was working to achieve it -- and he had nice things to say about Apollo. ;) I *must* be a horse person -- the best way to compliment me is to say something nice about my horse! Anyway, he was saying that Apollo is a really kind horse, one I can trust, that you can tell the difference between a mean or an angry horse and one who's tired or doesn't understand, and Apollo is definitely the latter when he gets pissy. Of course, this all agrees with my own opinion of Apollo, so ... yep. A was very encouraging. Much appreciated.
One of the things A talked to me about after he rode was the forward and straight bit. He said that it's not really as important right now to worry about where Apollo puts his head, that it's much more important to just get him forward, forward, forward. The second thing he talked about and that I'd watched him work on was adjustability within gaits; another obvious thing that's good to see in practice.
So when I headed out to ride today, my main goal was exactly that: to get Apollo forward in each gait. My secondary goal was to work lengthened and shortened strides in each gait. I felt like we had some real difference between this ride and previous rides -- lots of momentum, and I thought we were quite forward. Apollo was a little goofy when MR brought his pasture mate in for a ride, but not much. He was really more goofy about the very small, very wet spot in the arena; sheesh. Up to and including basically teleporting himself five feet to the left mid-canter. Silly beast.
I'm excited about tomorrow's lesson, too. Not sure if we'll do any jumping, even of tiny cross-rails, but whatever we do, it'll be good for us! But for now? Sleeeeep.