Tomorrow we jump. Only a little clear round course of about 18 inches-2ft, but it's a start. It is therefore very likely that my next post will be dominated by that and I won't get a chance or have the inclination to write about how well Echo is going on the flat at the moment - actually, just in general really.
After my lesson on Tuesday, I schooled her for all of ten minutes the next day. It was absolutely scorching weather, but she felt soft, willing and light in my hands. We walked, trotted and cantered on both reins, then I decided to go for a hack. We haven't hacked out for months, but I think she was so unbelievably grateful to not be working hard in the school, that she didn't even think of messing around. We went out onto the heath and got into the shade of the forest, where we were able to have a lovely long canter. I'm usually a real wuss about cantering her out on my own, but she was a star and seemed to really enjoy it.
Yesterday was a schooling day, so we worked hard at getting her to carry more weight behind and lift her forehand. I have noticed a real improvement in this - possibly because she has grown a little and is no longer quite so croup high. As John was so complimentary of our improved canter, I thought I would start challenging her a little in this pace, so yesterday I introduced a little counter canter. She did it fairly well, although every stride it felt as if she was asking me, 'Are you sure? You really want me to canter on the wrong leg?' It was quite hard to keep her going, but the balance began to improve. What I did find, however, was that her trot after the counter canter felt quite long and stretched out. I remember from the pony that I used to compete, that counter canter always improved his trot, making it much more through and springy. Maybe Echo just isn't balanced enough at the end of the canter, through the transition.
Today, I couldn't quite decide what to do. I am trying to vary her work as much as possible, but as I had jumped Tuesday, hacked Wednesday, schooled Thursday, and am jumping tomorrow, I was at a bit of a loss. The decision was somewhat made for me, as it was very windy, therefore no hacking, there were lessons in the woodchip, therefore no jumping, so schooling it was. I'm glad I did actually, as she felt really good. I worked on some leg-yielding in trot for a while, then worked for a while on some walk to canter transitions, then lengthening and shortening the canter strides. I asked for walk to canter at one end of the school, cantered a collected(ish) circle, then asked for more lengthened strides down the long side, before asking for her to collect again at the other end. I find it quite hard to get her back from a more medium canter to a collected, as she naturally wants to fall into trot. It felt like quite a useful exercise, though, so I may practise that a few times.
As the jumping tomorrow is in the showjumping field with the posh showjumps, I thought I had better walk Echo round it a few times, just to make sure there were no monsters lurking behind the jumps. She was very quiet actually, and as there was a very small jump in there, I popped over it a couple of times. She cleared it both times, but I didn't manage to get a great stride into it on either approach. Determined to end things on a good note, I took her into the woodchip, which is the warm up area tomorrow, and there was a nice little straight bar of about 2ft 3 set up. We cantered up to it and about 3 strides away I knew that we were spot on - see - I'm learning! It felt great, so I stopped there. I'm now very excited.
To cool Echo off, I walked her through the cross country course, although I couldn't resist galloping up our usual steep hill - it was just too inviting! I must walk up it a couple of times soon though, as she is starting to anticipate the gallop.
I'm having such fun with my awesome horse at the moment - I don't want the summer holidays to end now! Only one more week of freedom... :(