Last Sunday I brought Reva over to my instructor's farm for a lesson. My time is limited for lessons with Judy, as she does not have an indoor and the indoor where she keeps her horse for the winter does not allow outside instructors. I am hoping to sneak in a few more lessons before winter really settles here in Maine.
I have only been riding Reva about four times a week lately, which is about what I have time for when school is in session and we begin to lose daylight. So I was not expecting much last week for a lesson, as I wonder if she is in the best shape any longer.
It was a beautiful fall day, with a bit of a breeze. Reva does not usually seem to be affected by the wind, but Judy's neighbors have an annoying dog that ran over as soon as I unloaded her. It is small and moves like a dart; it is scared of horses but is very curious. I wish it would just come over and get a good kick from a horse to smarten it up....oh WAIT, I wish the OWNER would just keep it in their own yard! Grrrrr...
So anyway, as soon as the little thing ran over, one of Judy's boarders started running and bucking in her paddock. Reva is pretty level headed, but she definitely feeds off other horses. It only took a moment to settle her down and get tacked up, but with the dog running around and the neighbor kids bouncing on a trampoline, Reva's attention was not 100% on me.
Still, I was pleased with her walk and trot work. We are starting to really work on bending and engaging her inside hind leg. She is finally past the baby stages of turn, stop, and go and beginning to understand inside leg to outside hand. There are moments of resistance in which she displays subtle teeth grinding. Oh Reva! :-p Judy was having me think "over bending" with her which actually made her simply bend correctly. I have worked hard to keep her straight and take even contact on the bit, but now it is time to move like a big girl.
When Reva moves correctly and relaxes, she has the most amazing trot. There is a moment of suspension, where it feels like we are "floating" while I am posting "up". It is A.W.E.S.O.M.E. It feels like I am riding a "fancy dressage horse". LOL! Judy gets excited and I can hear it in her voice..."niiiiice trot!" I know there will come a time when suddenly THIS trot will be our normal. Rome was not built in a day. I have time. I know that the consistent and correct work we do will pay off. :-)
So maybe you are wondering why I named this post what I did. LOL!!!! Well, I have been working on Reva's canter, of course. I started some brief lunging in the past few weeks to help her figure out her balance in the canter and accept some contact. So when I asked her to canter on the left lead last Sunday in my lesson, it was fabulous! Judy actually said, "Holy sh*t!" HA HA HA! I love it! I love that we have actually improved that much! Reva's canter was lovely and uphill, no rushing, no discombobulation, and pretty decent balance! Whoooo! She is not yet strong enough for more than a few strides, maybe half a circle, but it was so exciting! It is the first time her left lead canter has been SOOOO nice!
The right lead is a different story though. We are starting to work on her right lead canter now that the left lead is so much improved. Her right lead is the more difficult of the two leads for her. She does not always want to pick up the right lead, which made me really nervous for a while. And when she would pick up anything (usually wrong) to the right, it was awful. She would cross canter, buck, and it felt like her hind legs were going in a million different directions.
Today, six days after that lesson above with the left lead being so awesome, we did some work on the right lead canter on the lunge line. I love being able to still take lessons...I am hoping to keep this up as long as there is no snow! Her right lead is obviously more difficult for her, BUT she never did any of the weird things on the lunge that she has done under saddle. YAY!!! It made me feel so much better today! It was a bit cold and windy and she was being a bit of a firecracker on the lunge line. Judy worked her for me, which is nice because I like watching at times. Seeing her take the right lead and canter "normally" was great. I am feeling better that there is not a physical issue there.
After Judy finished lunging her, I took a lesson. Reva was much calmer by then and her trot work was super nice. I also think working her on the lunge for a brief time in the trot and canter helped loosen her up immensely. In the past, I have just lunged her (about twice a week) or just ridden. Today we did both and it worked well. Almost 100% of the trot was that amazing gait I described before. Judy told me she looked like a warmblood today. ;-) She was bending so much better...we have worked on that ALL WEEK and it was nice to show Judy our progress. Her trot only deteriorated after some of the right lead canter, as she started to get tired and unsure of what to do with herself. We'll get there! Her left lead canter was super nice again and I tried the right lead...she picked it up once and then we had a few wrong leads.
(Side note: Here is a great technique Judy taught me to encourage Reva to take the correct lead. Let's say I want the left lead canter. I will trot her in a 20-25 m. circle to the right, usually between X and A, concentrating on bending her and keeping her in a good rhythm and tempo. As we come towards X, I will keep a slight right bend but ride her into the other direction...as I approach the fence, headed towards M I ask for the left canter lead. Basically it is like riding a figure eight of two 20 m. circles, with one half in the trot to set her up for the canter. In the left lead, I can change the bend to the left and ask for the canter, while in the harder right lead I have been having her stay slightly counterbent. It works great!)
Finally she picked up the correct lead and it really wasn't that bad! It was more balanced under saddle than it has EVER been. I was so happy! Lately Reva's training is really coming together. She is extremely opinionated but I never really saw it until now. She has been so easy to train all along, I have been waiting to see if that would change as we moved beyond the easy basics (forward, halt, turn). I wondered if she would have temper tantrums as the work got harder. I guess I would not yet call anything a tantrum, but she has clear opinions at times. Thankfully she also shows a real desire to improve, because I can tell she WANTS to be right. But sometimes she thinks SHE is more right than me! LOL! Last week she got frustrated when being asked for bend at the trot...I can tell because she grinds her teeth. Today she only did it once for a few strides and stopped. I love it! It is so satisfying to see such obvious improvement in a young horse. :-) I wish I had some video of her under saddle.