I was finally able to ride Echo again yesterday and it was great to be riding again. I lunged her the day before and she was very good - frisky, but good! What I did notice on the lunge, however, was the marked improvement in her canter. She has always struggled to canter while lunging, and so I have avoided this for a while and only cantered on hacks. Her transitions were much more defined this time and she was able to really power from behind. Her canter is actually starting to look rather good!
When I rode yesterday she had definitely forgotten a few manners! Too much pampering and not enough work! When another horse came into the arena, she decided to wander off and say hello! It took about five minutes for her to remember what her job was. She was a little wooden in the trot to begin with and I had to really work on getting her to flex. I also did some leg-yielding quite early in the session and that seemed to work. However, as I was turning onto a circle after that, she kept thinking I wanted to leg-yield back to the track and it took some strong outside aids to show her that I didn't want her to go sideways EVERY time!
I decided to see if there was an improvement in her canter when I was riding her, and asked for a transition on the left rein first. She got the left canter straight away, and I was able to maintain it and even ask for her to be a little more civilised in the pace. However, on the right rein, she kept striking off on the wrong leg. It seems that she was only pretending to bend to the right at first, and was actually falling out through her left shoulder. When I asked for the canter she immediately struck off on the left lead. I had to physically stop for a moment to think about this. I realised that I needed to ride the outside of the horse more strongly. I think in order to make her bend, I had been putting my weight more onto my inside seat bone. In fact, this was enabling her shoulder to escape. I found that when I straightened myself and distributed my weight more evenly, she then was able to truly bend to the right and got the correct lead leg in canter. This was a bit of a learning experience for me - I had thought that I was helping her to bend by exaggerating a little with my weight, but both with the canter leads and the leg-yielding, I have found that being straight and even helps her a lot more.
As you can tell, it was quite a mental workout! However, this was not the only form of workout, and I have realised that unfortunately I am going to have to clip Echo soon. She has grown quite a woolly winter coat, despite my gallant efforts to keep her well rugged up. I had hoped that this year I would have the chance to stand her next to some horses being clipped and get her used to trimmers and other noisy items. I am determined that she will be an easy horse to clip, and therefore I need to make sure that I introduce it all properly. There is nothing worse than a horse that is difficult when you are trying to clip, so I want her to learn properly. Therefore, this week will be spent getting her used to buzzing items and then hopefully she will be de-haired a little at the weekend. In the meantime, I will try to ride her only lightly, as she got very sweaty yesterday. I have to ride her in the evenings after work, and I can't turn her out if she is wet - it takes so long for her to dry in this weather too. Fingers crossed that she is as angelic as she has been in every other way!