Trainer is leaving for Florida in a week and a half, so I am hustling to use up my credits before she goes.
Last night, we had our first lesson in about six weeks, due to my work schedule and her clinic schedule and sundry other things. We focused on getting a couple simple things down and then my homework is to translate them throughout my ride.
First up: bending. We worked out a few simple exercises to start in the halt then carry through walk, trot, and canter to get him more supple R and L. He's never been the most laterally supple horse, and he lost any trace of what he once had during his time off, so this was really good for both of us.
Next, some pieces of my position. In particular, my hands. I need a stronger contact and need to focus on using my shoulders and elbows more to encourage elasticity rather than just heavy. I need to keep the reins shorter than I have been. (Always a problem for me...) I also need to keep my hands quieter (something I've been working on). I had been backing off on that because one of our bad feedback loops is to get harder and harder against each other, and I've been erring too far on the side of a soft contact, to the point that it was inconsistent.
Last but not least we worked on the canter: bending and encouraging a bit of round. We had some really, REALLY nice moments in the canter, when he would give a little to the inside and then I'd add in outside rein to keep him on a consistent circle and all of a sudden his hind legs would connect. There was a moment or two when he felt like riding a bouncy ball in comparison to his usual strung out canter. For the first time in a very long time there were also a few strides where he felt on the edge of control, like he was letting out all that energy we'd just accessed by going FAST. It took me so much by surprise that slowing him down didn't enter into my mind and we had a few good rides down some long sides before I realized that my horse, my lazy behind-the-leg horse was going too fast.
After the mechanics and riding exercises, we also talked a bit about tack. She opened up Tristan's mouth and suggested trying some different bits, with two main goals in mind: something thinner and something with more of a peanut shape than the French link he's got right now. He has a low palate and a small-ish mouth so the thickness of the bit wasn't as kind as it typically is; it was hard for him to really get his mouth closed and accept it. I knew he had a low-ish palate, hence the French link instead of a regular snaffle (which he def. doesn't like) but as she showed me his mouth and we looked at the way the bit was moving together the thickness made sense, too. A different shape to the middle link (right now it's a flat piece) will also provide a gentler bend.
Overall she praised both my seat and my general instincts - often when he had a breakthrough we both said "Good!" at the same time. My hope is always that I'm a good student - that I respond quickly, effectively, and am thoughtful about the questions I ask and the conversations I have - and I feel like our communication was good. I'd ride with her twice a week, every week, if I could, but I can't work that many hours at the barn on top of my regular job, alas.
Final note: it was such a gorgeous day that we rode on top of the hill in the jumping ring, and used a headset. I kind of loved it. Having her voice in my ear without straining to listen meant that I could react quickly, go further in the ring, and have near-constant feedback on what I was doing, which I really needed last night.
We worked hard for the full hour, and Tristan was foamy with sweat through his winter coat, so he got a long rinse and a cooler to go back in his stall, where he was clearly a bit weary.
He'll get tonight off to rest as I stay late at work to catch up, and then we have another lesson on Thursday, whew!