Lesley schooled Cotton for me while I was visiting my parents this past weekend and again before my dressage lesson yesterday. She had him going so well – he was absolutely gorgeous to watch and when it was my turn to climb up…Oh. My. Goodness! He was a completely different horse – balanced, forward, round, fluid, light. And she did it in just two sessions! - a one hour session the first day and a ½ hour session that day and in that blasted snaffle bit! I got a tiny taste of how much easier it is to ride a well-trained horse!
Every time he hollowed she moved him into the bit and immediately rewarded his every effort to connect. Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? The crucial elements involved in that, however, are the timing and accuracy of each leg, seat and hand aid, the amount of “force” of each of those aids and the consistency of those aids and rewards – that mysterious silent dialogue that all riders have with their horses. The difference is that Lesley speaks “horse” fluently and when she says something Cotton says “Oh, ok, gotcha!” but when I try it he says “What?! I don’t understand a thing you’re saying, girl!”
Today I did some XC flat work in his bubble bit and enjoyed the remaining benefits of her time with him yesterday – he didn’t even think about hollowing!
After our “dressage” flat work we trotted in 2-point all around. I was conscious of his energy level and reminded myself that I needed to ignore my feeling that he was on “high alert” and just focus on his balance and rhythm. He stayed at a slower pace for longer when I released him from the ½ halt. We even trotted down a long slope and he didn’t get carried away at all – yay! Then we did some cantering serpentines with simple transitions in between. I’ve learned to abandon my plan when things are slightly askew so I trotted a few circles after transitioning to get him round and relaxed again when he needed it.
The only trouble I had was keeping him from switching leads on the downward transition going to the left on our last little loop. The first time I thought I had leaned to the inside just a little so I corrected that – he still switched. Then I wondered if I had used just a tad too much rein - he still switched. I remembered long after I had put him back in the pasture that he needs me to keep my legs in the position of the left lead canter aid during my transition and I don’t think I had done that, so… next time.
I’m torn between wanting to work on stadium and do some jumping tomorrow or be really risky and try some dressage in his snaffle all by myself while he still has Lesley’s training in the back of his mind… decisions, decisions!