I had another lesson with Amanda last night. Ashke was very calm but forward from the beginning and we both felt like he was a lot looser than a week ago. It's funny how much the weather effects his ability to move. We started out with leg yields at the walk and he was able to leg yield to X and back to the wall without much trouble. The angle is steep so I find it mentally challenging to move him both sideways and forward at the right angle. I think if we keep working on it every ride, by Expo we should be pretty solid. (I also need to add the turn on the haunches to our daily rides, as well.) Then we did leg yield at the trot and he is able to move 15m from centerline to the rail in both directions.
Next we worked on some serpentines from my seat, doing w-t-w and w-c-w and even some t-c-t. I did lengthenings (more like just moving faster, not really lengthening his stride) in walk to collected walk and the same at the trot, working on the speeding up and slowing down off my seat. I think he has fun trying to figure out what I want next and was very involved and connected to me. I have been really consciously allowing him some space in front to move up into the canter when asking and we only had one time when he didn't pick up the right lead, but it was totally my fault. I cued to for the right lead but then turned him to the left. Nice quarter circle of counter canter. Too bad that wasn't what I was trying for. His canter was super nice and the transitions down were completely off my seat most of the time, once he figured out what we were doing.
We worked next on haunches in and shoulder in, alternating them along the rail. First in one direction and then the other. He is still "sticky" when moving clockwise around the arena (stepping up to the inside with his right hind leg) but each ride he gets a little better. I'm so pleased with how much he has learned and how willing he is to try. I didn't realize how connected working on these things could bring the two of us together.
I asked Amanda if we could work on jumping, since that is a huge hole in our training.
Okay, don't all of you jumpers laugh at me. I don't want to be able to do anything more than jump one jump during the EOH and Speed phase, without Ashke jumping me out of the saddle and without me jamming his mouth.
Amanda said sure, as soon as I could two point without stirrups for two minutes while posting at the trot. Then she laughed and said that's what she normally makes her students do. I'm glad my one little jump does not require that. We started with the ground pole and walked, trotted and finally cantered over it. He did okay with figuring out how to get over it without tripping us up. Then we brought the cavaletti out and turned it sideways so it was maybe 10". We walked and trotted over it. Ashke smacked both front shins on the bar the first time over at the trot, but then he decided to pick his feet up and get them out of the way. We didn't try the canter, because RH, and we didn't want it to be too much. My job was to look up, get my hands forward a bit and lift out of the saddle an inch. I did that over the jump and again on the flat, just to work on those muscles. Ashke had a few moments with pinned ears directed my way, but when he figured out that I was not posting or falling off, just rising a bit to let his back move, he settled. I think he hates when I post because 1) I'm bad at it, 2) he doesn't like it when it feels like I am moving out of the saddle and 3) he takes his responsibility to keep me in the saddle very seriously. Once he realized that I was really only doing it over the jump, he stopped getting upset at me. Overall, I think we made progress. I'm hoping we can practice some more next week. It's fun to add the practical application of what we are working on at the end of our session.
One of the things I realized when we went over the jump at the trot is that I am beginning to ride with my legs and seat like I did when I was young. Not the "getting the horse to do what I want" thing with just my seat, since that is really new to me, but the confidence and connection of no longer worrying about losing my connection or my seat. I've finally gotten past the "need to hold myself on" with either knees or my "oh shit" grab strap. It's not that Ashke was being bad or I was worried about his behavior, but rather the lack of muscle strength and stamina that I had when I was younger. Coming back to this after so much time, so much injury to my poor body, it's taken this long (almost five years) to develop the feel again, and to strengthen the muscle memory. My heart and my mind remembered but my body has taken longer. I felt that last night: the carefree ability of riding in balance rather than by muscling it. It was one moment, but one that shines in my mind. I think there will be a lot more going forward.
We finished up with a figure eight. In the Novice B test, we do a 15 m circle at E, then go around the end and cross the diagonal from F to H with a change of bend and lead at X through the trot, then a 15m circle at C, cross the diagonal again and transition down to the trot. Currently, I am just working on the transition at X. We got three very nice changes yesterday, without fuss or frantic head throwing. I think on our next ride I will do the 15m circle at E, the change on the diagonal to the second circle at C, just to put those two pieces together. And separately, do the leg yield to turn on the haunches to trot at M and then canter at C as a segment together. Those transitions come pretty quick and I want to work on my timing of the aids.
Overall, I am so pleased with both my improvement and Ashke's development. He's such a good boy.