This was cantering a year ago
We were working primarily on getting the canter down and starting our lateral work. November was the first month where he showed signs of slowing down and being balanced. We were having issues with bend. He was still struggling with some physical issues with both his feet and his haunches, however, he was in consistent work and weekly lessons.
This was a week ago
We are now working on half pass, shoulder in and haunches in at the trot, the beginnings of flying changes, developing the medium trot vs the collected trot, developing the medium canter vs the collected canter (the video above shows this is a work in progress), trot circle to leg yield. Amanda said in our last lesson that it is amazing how far we've progressed in the past year.
We have sacrificed a lot of time on trail to developing our skills in the arena. I would have thought we would both be miserable, but I think we both like this. It is amazing to me that a shift in my shoulders by an inch in either direction is the difference between a flowing half pass and a tied up, pretzeled attempt.
It is hard. Maybe one of the hardest things I've ever worked consistently at. I have a small muscle at the top of my ass that is sprained right now because I am trying to use my legs consistently in ways legs shouldn't be used. But we are getting closer. We are still learning. We are progressing, regardless of what our show scores say.
Ashke and I are no longer arguing about the South end of the arena. If he starts to get silly, a soft pop on the bit reminds him to stay focused, and I am no longer allowing him to derail our conversation. Shoulder in ridden through deeper footing, at the trot is enough to convince him perhaps it is less work to do what I ask then to play silly buggers.
Our warm ups are easier than a year ago, with walk-trot-canter being available immediately. I am still walking for the first five to ten minutes, doing shoulder in, leg yields and reminding him to stay on the bit at the walk during warm up. The issues of short striding, cross cantering, and feeling rough have evaporated in the past six months, resolved by the myofascial release done by Tracy Vroom. (I can't say enough good about that session and how much has changed under saddle for the two of us because of it). A year ago, cantering was still hit and miss, and he protested the attempts a lot, kicking at my feet frequently because of it.
In our last lesson, we walked down centerline while I shifted the bend from haunches to the left, the straight and then haunches to the right while keeping the shoulders on the line. I will be working that exercise in a figure eight pattern, using it during our transition at the walk, with a change of lead and canter circles on either side. I need to do this exercise more than he does, so I can build the muscle memory of that movement. I recognized last night that what is keeping us from flying changes is not him, but me. I don't have the muscle memory to make that ask in the .005 of a second I have available to me when we are working on the change. I need to work this exercise until it becomes second nature and I am able to do it in a single walk stride. At that point, I should be able to do it for a flying change. It should also become crystal clear to Ashke which lead we are after.
I have to laugh that dressage has become so delightful.