I considered just putting a big black square as my post today... to symbolize the clean slate that I clearly need. Thank you for all your comments on yesterday's post. You're all absolutely right, of course, I need to avoid over-analyzing and dwelling. So, tonight I set out to put the bad rides of the past week behind us and have an enjoyable, light, productive flat session.
First off, I set myself up to have a good ride. I told Alicia that I would turn out Tucker's turnout buddies, Rodie and Junior, when I was done riding, so that he wouldn't spend the entire ride gawking at their field and wondering what fun he was missing. I also rode inside, rather than out in the field. We are getting new footing in the big outdoor ring this week (!), so as of today there are several large pieces of machinery and a huge pile of sand out there, and while Tucker isn't usually a spooky horse, I didn't want to set myself up for an issue this evening.
I tried to pick back up where I had left off in my lesson on Saturday afternoon with our flat work. We worked on straightness, getting him to softly accept contact on both reins while traveling straight, and then accept the outside rein in the bend. There were ground rails set up, a single one in the middle of one long side, and a line on the other long side. I practiced traveling straight down the quarter line over the poles, accepting both reins, keeping his haunches tracking behind his shoulders (instead of swinging out) with a supporting outside leg, and then doing a shallow "s" over the poles, practicing changing the bend and getting him to bend through his middle and step under with the inside hind, so that he's fully engaged and bending through his whole body instead of just in front of the saddle.
Tracking right, he likes to curl himself to the inside, over bend and pop his left shoulder (which all goes back to him constantly seeking the left rein), so I need to be careful to keep him a little straighter with my outside aids. I worked on some counterbending circles and thinking about turning him with my left rein and leg. Tracking left, I have to be careful to keep the bend with my left leg, rather than left hand, which is tough because he really wants to balance off the left rein and often tricks me into holding him up on the left side. He'll even twist his head a little, tipping his ears to the left and his nose to the right, in an effort to get more contact on the left. This is all, of course, stemming from un-evenness in my riding, which I am working hard at correcting. Mostly, carrying my right hand and keeping my right elbow at my side so that the contact on the right is soft and following (making it more pleasant for him to accept), and making sure, especially tracking right, that my shoulders follow his ears, instead of my left shoulder back and right shoulder forward, which makes me twist my hips and makes the weight in my seat uneven, further encouraging him to be uneven.
At the canter, I worked on straightness and collection and extension, using the ground rails. I first worked on getting a medium canter, flowing but balanced, to the single rail. I worked on turning out of the corner using my outside rein and leg, and then having him very straight, between both hands and both legs, all the way to and from the pole. I noticed he wanted to drift back out to the rail upon landing, so I took that as an opportunity to get him accepting the outside rein and almost asked for a slight leg yield to the inside to keep him straight. Once I had a good working canter and was happy with straightness in each direction, I worked on collection and extension by alternating between putting four strides between the two poles and then three strides, and then back to four. Not surprisingly, the hardest part was getting him to collect and go back to four strides after doing three. It was tough tracking left to get him to collect but stay soft and keep the impulsion. The first two times he wanted to bounce off my hand and come above the bit, but the last time I really concentrated on closing my leg and pushing him into my hand as I asked for the collection, and that made it softer.
I was overall very pleased to feel how adjustable he has become though. A few months ago, we did a similar exercise with a line of cavaletti and I really struggled with it. So, that's a significant sign of progress despite how discouraged I felt on Sunday. For more on progress, visit Kate's blog, A Year with Horses.
6 hours ago