I had such a useful lesson with John today. I explained about the wolf tooth and that it isn’t being removed until Wednesday, so he said that we wouldn’t make an issue out of the contact on the left. We started working on the right rein (the difficult one) and actually John said that it was a lot better. She is bending to the right now; I still feel like I’m having to use my inside hand too much, but at least it is not one sided now – she does actually take the contact in the left rein and feels as if she is working from my inside leg into my outside hand.
He said that we would work on canter transitions, and the first few that I did were pretty dreadful. There is often this period of scurrying between trot and canter, where I lose all ability to ride altogether! My body tips forward and I feel like a complete beginner. Not good. He got me to think about not altering the ground speed at all when moving from trot to canter – keep the contact, sit up and ask for an upward movement, not a faster movement. Once we had established better transitions, he then said that the best strides of canter were the first two and the last two, and that I lost it in the middle. He got me to work on slowing the canter down and really riding it. It felt lovely and her trot started to really swing afterwards.
After practising this on both reins, he told me to ride a figure of 8 in canter, only trotting for 3 strides in the middle. I knew this was going to be next to impossible. We started off on the right rein, as she finds the transition easier on the left, so I could guarantee that one of them would be OK! With the exception of a couple of half-decent transitions, the whole exercise was out of control and scrappy. However, it did teach me some useful lessons. I am far too dependent on my safety net of doing transitions on the fence; I am also nowhere near quick enough to respond to Echo when she asks me questions. I felt like my brain was a couple of seconds behind the action when I was trying to do the figure of 8 –need to get my act together! It also taught me that I need to be far clearer with my aids and responses. She is not quick enough to respond with her hind legs – there are all sorts of reasons for this, not least the problems with her stifle; however, I need to sharpen her responses by making sure that I am focused and determined when asking her to do something. John said that I shouldn’t be afraid of teaching her what I want her to do.
I feel like we are starting to get somewhere now. I have stopped getting so frustrated when I school her and have definitely chilled out about the schooling. We have seen a big improvement in the last week, and that’s with only schooling at most 3 times. The rest has been hacking, which I think is really good for us. I am determined to teach her to jump this summer – I very nearly tried popping her over a tiny little jump on the cross country course when I was hacking yesterday, but she really needs to loose jump one more time before I face her with something like this. Also, I was on my own and I think it might be sensible to either be in the school when I first jump her, or at least follow the lead of another, quiet horse the first few times. I’m getting pretty excited – I haven’t jumped for years! I think I’ll have a lesson on one of the school horses to reacquaint myself with it.