I've left it a while between posts again as work has been so hectic, but I have been managing to ride. Tuesday and Wednesday evenings I rode Echo and just focused on getting her soft and relaxed; this was a little difficult on Tuesday as there were four of us schooling in our rather small indoor arena, and there was a jump up (the last time Echo had seen a jump she was being chased over it!) so we got some nice work, but it was a little tense! Wednesday was fine and I got a canter on each rein - I am also finding that I can sit in the saddle a little more now when cantering in the arena. One thing I did notice, was the importance of my outside leg. She had been very forward going, so I guess I hadn't been using my legs enough. When I asked her to canter on the left rein, she cantered on the right leg, then on the right rein cantered on the left leg - rather a clear signal that I was letting her fall out through her outside shoulder. As soon as I got my act together and got her shoulders in, she cantered on the correct leg!
Yesterday, I decided to just give her a break from riding, and thought I would lunge her for 15 minutes just to establish some canter transitions. She was going beautifully and was cantering quickly when I asked, then she suddenly stopped. Nothing I could do would persuade her to canter again - she just ran around in a fast trot. It was extremely odd. In a bid to not let her 'get away with it' I got the yard manager to come and help me, but he couldn't get her to canter. By this time she was hot, stressed and tired, and I was just getting cross. I was quite upset, because I couldn't work out why she would just suddenly stop being willing to canter. Nothing had changed, and I wondered whether she was in pain of some sort. The yard manager recommended that I put her back in her stable and let her dry off, then come back later in the evening and ride her, getting a good canter with me on her. Then he said I should put her on the lunge again and ask for the canter again. I agreed to this, then went home and thought - a lot!
The fact that something like this had me in tears indicated to me that perhaps I was too tired to be having this argument now, and if Echo had refused to canter because she was exhausted, then she wasn't likely to be much better a couple of hours later. I decided to pretend it had never happened. I went back down to the yard, brushed her off and changed her rugs (she seemed very pleased to see me - bless her, even though I had been hitting her with a lunge whip) and gave her lots of hugs and polos. I was in no state to ride her and I'm really glad I didn't.
Today, I went out for a hack with my friend who I used to hack out with when we first started hacking. She has sold her old horse, Jem, but has got a new one now - a big 5 year old ex-racehorse. He's got a lovely personality but she has only had him for a couple of weeks and has only hacked him out in walk and trot. She was keen to have a short, steady canter, but I knew that she wouldn't want to gallop about madly as she is trying to keep everything calm. Echo behaved absolutely beautifully. She was willing to slow down even when Mojo started getting a bit in front of her, as I was keen to keep her balanced. When we had a canter she was great - not too fast and no bucking, so a great improvement on our previous two hacks! We had a second canter up a hill, which was a bit faster; I think Mojo suddenly remembered he had been a racehorse and was desperate to go. My friend controlled him really well, although at the top of the hill, I could see she was trying to stop, but he was just cantering slower and sideways! Echo came back to a trot, even though he was still cantering. She has such a sensible brain.
I really enjoyed riding her today. I realised yesterday (during my ridiculous over-analysing) that I am probably putting a bit too much pressure on her and that I should learn to not ask for 'just one more transition'. If she's done it well, leave it there. So easy to say, and yet so difficult to do, as I am a perfectionist! I need to give her more rides like today, where I make a huge fuss of her for just trotting nicely, or for taking a sideways step when I ask her to. I have a very special horse and should remember that more.