I warmed Lu up without asking much out of her before F (my instructor) came into the ring. It was rainy and dull yesterday so we had to ride indoors, but that was truthfully a nice reprieve for me because I didn't have to worry about her spooking at stupid things or leaping over every puddle in sight, and I could concentrate on the task at hand. When F came in he asked me to talk about what we had been working on, since it's been a few weeks since our last lesson. He also asked me what differences I had noticed in Miss Lucy since the treatment began. We had our last lesson just a few days after she started the GastroGard, and she was still slightly naughty during that lesson. I told him everything I had noticed thus far, but of course instead of making a good first impression and showing how awesome that $1000 of GastroGard has made her feel, she pinned her ears flat against her head as soon as we picked up a trot! What a devil. I think she was mad because we had already gone through all three gaits in both directions and then walked around chatting for 10 minutes, so she thought she was finished. She went around with a nasty face for one 20 metre circle and then seemed to get over herself and she settled right down to work.
He got right on my case about establishing a rhythm and posting actively and not passively. It was *my* trot, and we were going whatever speed *my* posting decided, so it was up to me to tell her how I wanted it. Once I put my leg back and on her and posted rhythmically with a deliberate and full-weighted pause in the saddle between each rise, she really responded and slowed her pace down.
After that was in order, we concentrated mostly on letting go of the inside rein, which I just love to use as a crutch for my weak inside leg (F's words, not mine....but sadly I have to agree with him!) and I feel like I very much improved during this lesson. At one point during some trot work, I had my inside leg firmly against her side slightly behind the girth (where it's actually supposed to be!) and I was supporting well with my outside leg. I had a constant but elastic contact on the outside rein and a lovely soft look with the inside rein. She was going SO WELL, and she held it together for a good 4 or 5 20 metre circles! I was thrilled. That's the longest we've been able to hold ourselves together before one of us gets too tired :) She got a nice long resting walk break after that.
Canter work didn't feel as nice, but F assured me it looked very good. One of my biggest struggles with Lucy is rating her speed from "snails pace" to "way too fast". When she is going a good speed with a good length of stride, to me it feels "way too fast" and when it feels good to me, she looks way too short. She is a bit horse and she has long legs and I just need to let her move. She has a lot of spring in her step and that translates as feeling like a lot of movement, but I don't want to discourage that.
To the left the canter felt way too fast and heavy, but F encouraged me to keep going and supporting her and to remember my inside leg/outside hand relationship and after two or three trips around the ring it REALLY came together and felt lovely.
To the right the canter started out very interesting because I had her bent the correct way but she popped out her left shoulder at the last second (we can blame that on my outside aids!) and managed to pick up the wrong lead. She immediately tried to fix it but only got the front and not the back, and then she got upset and threw a huge buck to try and get the hind lead fixed. To me it felt like she was about to take off into orbit but F said, "organize and ask again!" and within two trot strides she was soft and departing into a right lead canter. AWESOME!
After the canter work we did some stretchy trot work, and some figure 8's at the trot with downward transitions at X (look at me talking like a dressage rider!). At X, I asked her to redirect her bend before we trotted off again. I could really feel her rib cage yielding underneath me when I asked - this is something new and it was great to achieve! Instead of being met with resistance, she willingly tried to figure out what I wanted. She was really incredible yesterday.
To sum it up, the only two instances of naughtiness were 1) pinning her ears at the very beginning, and 2) getting mad about the wrong lead to the right, although the canter thing actually makes me adore her so much more because she's as much of a perfectionist as I am!! Plus I think it's awesome that she "knew" that she was wrong.
Who knew a hunter rider who used to be ALL about the jumps could be satisfied with a dressage lesson where the only "jump" we talk about is that quality of the canter that makes the horse seem as if it's springing forward from the hind end? Pretty awesome.
She got three apples as a reward and we did some nice ground work with lots of treats and stretches to cool down :)
I am getting very excited about the contest thanks to all of your excitement and comments on yesterday's entry! I am trying to come up with the perfect contest that will be fair and fun for all, and will post the details soon.