After my day of rest, I drove out to the barn on Sunday determined to get both my rides done without taking all dang day doing it. Hubby was my priority for the weekend. With Monday off, it seemed a bit rude to spend the whole day horsing around.
I decided to ride Speedy first in case I ran out of steam. I have a show in another month, and I want to go feeling as prepared as possible. As promised, he and I have been spending a lot more time using the whole arena. We're doing 20-meter canter circles at both ends and in the center; we're crossing the diagonal; and we're using the long sides. I also spent some time turning up the centerline to halt as well as do leg yields. We've also been practicing the 1-loop serpentine from Training Level Test 3 and the damn stretchy trot. I hate that thing! I know the variety is definitely helping me feel more solid in linking the different elements of the test together.
Once Speedy was thoroughly sweaty, (did I mention it was in the low 70s?) I gave him a quick shower and saddled Sydney. I had turned him out earlier in the morning, but he didn't get out on Saturday so I was a bit worried that he might need to be longed. Nope. I hopped right on, and he immediately went long and low at the walk.
Our favorite exercise right now is planting both hands in my thighs which forces me to ride completely with my seat. I know Sydney enjoys it because he starts to lengthen his stride almost immediately. In the past, I have had some trouble getting him going. He can get stuck behind which requires me to whack him with my legs. With my hands planted, I feel much more confident that he isn't going to bolt when I whack him. When I give him LEG, he does scoot forward, but he finds a steady bit instead of my unsteady hands.
So we worked with my hands planted. We did trot circles at both ends; we trot the long sides; and we did changes of bend across the diagonal all without using my hands to steer. I can see why bridle-less riding is so much fun! Once I felt he was ready for more, I picked up my hands, gradually shortened the reins, and asked for some inside bend. I remembered to let my inside leg do the work while my outside rein controlled the pace.
I could tell that he was a bit stiff to the left, as usual, so I asked for a left lead canter which normally helps him to loosen up. Like last week, it was soft, rolling, and relaxed. We cantered a lot: 20-meter circles, down both long sides, and even across the diagonal. I brought him back to trot, helped him rebalance, and asked for a right lead canter.
The first depart is always an ugly, off balance disaster. On Sunday, I shortened my outside rein and focused really hard on "holding him up" with it. I didn't ask for any bend. And the result? A near perfect depart with no pivoting or falling in. It was so lovely that we made several circles and then I asked him to stay straight down the long side. Again, FIRST TIME we've cantered the long side on the right lead canter. About half way down, he started to get too forward, so I used my newly found outside rein and asked for a small half halt to which he politely replied, sure! We made the turn between H and C and did a 20-meter circle at C. He felt so good that at M, I sent him down the long side again.
When we reached the corner, I asked for a trot, rode half the circle at A, and brought him to a walk. I hopped off and gave him huge hugs and kisses. I don't know how he knew, but he looked quite pleased with me. I think he felt as though he had finally shown me what to do. While I untacked, he had the most relaxed and satisfied expression on his face. I think he's relieved at my new found feel.
He wasn't as sweaty as Speedy, but he also got a quick shower followed by some time hand grazing around the property as he dried. I hope, hope, hope that this week's rides will build on what we did on Sunday. If not, I am not too worried about it as I know we can do it.
We are really starting to get somewhere now!