This is not that at all! I hesitate to go any further for fear of jinxing the heck out of myself. When the riding gods have cut you a break, it's best not to tempt them by doing an overt and obvious happy dance. I just can't help myself. I know you can't see me, but I am happy-dancing around the room right this second.
So what's to be so happy about? I have had a string of really solid rides on both of my boys and feel as though we have made it over some kind of learning bump. Don't misunderstand; the road ahead is still filled with ruts and bumps, but for right now, we seem to have found a really smooth stretch of highway.
Sydney is enjoying the work that we're doing. As directed by JL, we're doing pulley halts, sideways movement off my inside leg, and big, loopy changes of direction. My rein is long, but he's doing a very good job of holding the contact and reaching for the bit. Just a short month ago we could not do a change of direction without stumbling down into the walk. Sydney wasn't balanced, and I was obviously not giving him the support he needed. Now we can do the changes of direction, and we even do it without a lot of head popping. When he's nice and loose, he can even do 10 meter half-circles.
At the start of Monday's ride he was tense and anxious about the clucking chicks in the scary corner, but thanks to RM and her steady eddy, Bounder, we were able to school in that corner until he was again relaxed and moving forward. His little bolts and spooks were tiny and were controlled just by planting my inside hand to my thigh and sending him forward with my outside leg.
Speedy is also happier in his work. Just before our last show, things had been getting more and more tense between us. I could feel that we were not making a very harmonious pair. I gave it a lot of thought and decided to ask for less and be happier with less. We've lost some of the activity that we had behind, but we've gained better bend.
I've also been doing a lot of work on the free walk to medium walk and working trot to stretchy trot. I know my "technique" is probably not what you'd see happening in Steffen Peter's barn, but it's made a big difference for Speedy. I have trouble gathering up my reins after the free walk and stretchy trot. Speedy always pops up his nose when I finally get the rein back in my hand. This is a rider error all the way.
To help school through the problem at the free walk, I don't actually gather up the rein. Instead, I do this hideously ugly thing where I slowly pull the rein back up, sometimes to my chest, and then I let it back out. I am calling it the yo-yo stretch. Down, down, down ... up, up, up. We do it anywhere and everywhere. It's teaching me to keep the contact steady while it's showing Speedy that I am not going to bump him in the mouth as I draw up my rein. After practicing for a bit, I then try to shorten my reins like I would in a show. Speedy has been much more willing to let me take the rein back by doing it in the yo-yo style.
We've been practicing the stretchy trot the same way. I let the rein down and then slowly pull it back up. I might go half a circle and then bring the rein back, or I might go twice around. Either way, this yo-yo thing has helped both of us. Hopefully Speedy will be as willing to stretch at Sunday's show as he has been at home.
For now, thank you riding gods for giving me an opportunity to get some really good rides on my horses. It has been much appreciated. Even so, I still feel like I need to keep looking over my shoulder.
Oh, ye of little faith!