I just realised how long I have left it between posts! Things have been incredibly busy at work, and while I've just about been able to squeeze in riding Echo after work, I haven't had any spare time to write.
Things have been ticking along nicely with Echo. We have had some really nice hacks - we even had a canter last time! I had gone out with my usual hacking partner, but then we came across two more people who wanted to join us. Echo has never hacked out with anyone behind her, and this certainly made her a little more sprightly! She didn't do anything silly, she was just more forward going. When we had our first trot, we were side by side with her field mate. Echo was so speedy that we overtook her friend and were then leading the whole ride! So much for a timid youngster! We had another trot in a stubble field, which was fun, then had a canter on the way home. We decided to canter on a quite narrow track, so there was no possibility of anyone overtaking; it is also on a slight hill, so she was able to balance herself. It was such good fun: I had the biggest smile on my face afterwards!
Since then, we have had a few schooling sessions, some better than others for various reasons, but today I had a lesson with a local trainer. He teaches lots of people at the yard and I have heard many good things about him. We just had a half hour lesson this evening in the indoor school, but as Echo had had the last two days off, I was not sure how willing she would be to cooperate. She was, of course, very good!
He asked us to work in as we normally would in walk and trot, and then gave me a few pointers. He noticed that in walk, I tend to hold my hands too still and that this is encouraging her to tuck her head right under. She has recently been fighting my hand occasionally and he said that this is her getting annoyed with my rigid contact. This was a real revelation, because I had no idea that I was doing this. He told me to move my hands in an exaggerated way to begin with, and with a little practice, I found that she was much softer in her contact. This is so obvious! It's amazing how you have to return to the basics sometimes in your riding.
In trot, he said that she has a good length of stride and explained that this something that cobs can lose easily, and something that I must work to maintain. He said that this would involve making sure she doesn't get tight and tense through her back. She needs to swing through her body to move her legs, rather than use her legs to move her body. I had never thought of it like that and it is an interesting idea. We worked hard on changing the bend in trot and not allowing her to change the rein until she has changed the bend, even if that means going back to a halt in order to enforce this.
She is usually better at changing the bend than she was tonight, but he made the useful point that I need to be a little firmer with her. He said that it is good that I am patient, but that I must insist on something once I have asked, not just try to improve it next time. This is something I have been told before, and stems from the fact that I sometimes find it hard to see Echo as a horse that I must RIDE. It sounds stupid, I know! It is because I have had her since she was so young, and essentially she is my baby. He suggested I start to see her more as a work colleague and less as my child. This won't exactly be easy, when I feel like a mother to her. However, the more I start to think in dressage terms again, the more I remember how to ride assertively.
This week he has said that we should work on a little bit of leg yielding, as well as really insisting on the change of bend when changing the rein. We shall keep at it! I think I am hacking out again tomorrow, so the pressure is off. I'm sure that is why Echo is starting to enjoy hacking now: it is our chance to mooch around without the pressure. Even I am starting to enjoy it, and I never thought I'd say that!