One of the things that is unique in Working Equitation is the way in which the obstacles are ridden. There is a lot of collected tight canter work at the higher levels. In my lessons, we are working on developing the skills to do the more advanced canter work and Amanda is wonderful about spending part of the lesson applying those skills to the obstacles.
Last night, it was fairly cool. I got Ashke groomed and saddled early enough that we could go outside in the overcast gloom to warm up. We walked around the outside arena three times in each direction, then started trotting. I was not really asking for a lot of contact to start, but he reached out and let me know that he wanted it. We did trot-walk-trot transitions, some serpentine work in which he was very good at bend in both directions, then added a little canter. Things got a little sketchy. By that time we were approaching full dark and the boogie monsters were lurking in the shadows. I didn't want to fight so we went back inside. By that time the jumping lesson was mostly over and we closed up the arena while they finished putting the jumps away. Ashke saw Amanda arrive and stop to talk to people, so he turned and walked over to her to say hi. I knew what he was after (face rubs) so I just laughed to myself and humored him.
We started with walk pirouettes, which Amanda said were getting really solid, then moved to some warm up canter around the arena. Then went into the serpentine work at the trot, then expanded it to include halt transitions in the center and the occasional canter half loop. Next we did shoulder in along the rail. This one is still really hard for me to properly cue for, but Ashke was trying very hard to do whatever it was I was trying to get him to do. We did leg yields from quarterline to the rail at the trot and again at the canter. Then Amanda had me do 10m circles from the rail, transitioning to a walk as we came back to the rail (using the rail as a visual cue to help him transition from my seat). Then you regather your horse, transition to the canter and do another 10m circle. It was a great exercise and I will definitely add it to the riding exercises for Monday nights.
Then we pulled the cones out and began to work with them. We did serpentines around them, then did leg yields around them. That was really hard. Ashke wasn't really sure what I wanted and it was kind of counter intuitive to what we had been doing earlier. But it finally clicked for him (after I got out the dressage whip to help keep him motor moving forward). After a walk break we started working on canter with simple transitions in between the cones.
Then Amanda started having me turn the final cone as tightly as I could in a circle to go back through the cones. Ashke kept breaking into a trot, so I picked up the dressage whip again, just to mentally reinforce the idea that we maintain the canter. We were working the end circle on the left lead and he finally managed about a 3m circle at the canter. It was so amazing and I was so proud of him. We immediately stopped and he got lots of love and good boys.
I put him away at that point, since I really want to emphasize how great a job he did. I got him untacked and tucked away with his after ride bucket. I was so exhausted that I was staggering like a two day drunk. It is exhausting but I am beginning to understand why people like dressage so much. Figuring out how to do some of the stuff is just exhilarating.