I had a lesson with John today. For a change, I was actually well organised and well warmed up by the time of the lesson, so we could get straight on. He watched us walk and trot on both reins and then do a walk to canter transition on each rein. He didn't actually say very much, which is usually quite a good sign! He seemed pretty impressed with how she's improved, particularly on the right rein.
He did notice that in our canter transitions, she tends to fall to the inside, sort of jumping inwards into canter, rather than pushing out into the outside rein. To work on this, he got me to work in trot and come down the three-quarter line, leg-yielding towards the track. When I got to about half way between the 3/4 line and the track, I had to ask for canter, while still leg-yielding to the wall. It didn't sound that hard - I've often leg yielded in trot to the wall and then cantered on the track - how hard could it be? Very hard! I was so mal-coordinated! It's one thing being able to use the wall to help, but asking for canter while still leg-yielding was really really difficult! I also realised that it is probably me that makes her throw her weight to the inside in the transitions, as when I was asking for them in the leg-yield, that was exactly what I was doing with my body - it was more exaggerated as she was moving sideways. When I actually sat up and asked for the canter transition up from my inside seatbone and held it in the outside rein, it was lovely!
What I then found difficult, particularly on the right rein, was maintaining the sideways movement in the canter. The first step was nice, then she would fall right again. It took all my powers of coordination to really keep my inside leg on to keep her travelling sideways. He definitely knows how to get me using my little brain. However, the really good bit was the trot after I had done this exercise. Because I had actually used my inside leg and my outside rein properly through the movement, I had this lovely, powerful, swinging trot and I just wanted to hang on to it for dear life!!
Then the even better bit was what John said at the end. For quite a while, my goal has been to start taking Echo to some dressage shows in the Spring. Today, at the end of my lesson, John said that we are ready to do our first test now. I was so chuffed - having got to know him a little over the last year of having lessons with him, I'm pretty sure that he wouldn't say that lightly. It feels like when we get it right, we can really get it right and it's so much fun! I came out of the lesson beaming. I don't yet have a show to go to - in fact, there's an awful lot of preparation work to do first, as she hasn't ever been ridden away from home. However - that little comment just gave me the confidence and boost to the self-esteem that I really needed. I can't wait!!!