Contact, Canter, Carriage
The insanely disgusting humidity here finally broke on Sunday, and Monday was absolutely gorgeous. A light breeze, mid-70's, and the smell of fall starting to creep into the air. It was so nice to be able to ride and not be completely soaked through with sweat, and to not have dirt sticking to the sweat, and to not have to peel off every article of clothing on my body when I got home to take a shower.
At the end of last week I had tried out a new flatwork exercise that was working really well for Dino and I - leg yield away from the wall, turn on the haunches, leg yield back to the wall. This exercise 'works' because as the horse steps out of the turn on the haunch, it's reflexive for them to stretch their head and neck down and lift their back as the hind legs engage to bring them out of the turn and into the next leg yield.
Both Dino and I were really digging this exercise - it was an awesome way to get his whole body engaged, and for me to further solidify what really good contact feels like.
But the name of the game so far this week has been the canter. I snagged Jen's trot-canter-trot transition exercise, and after a good warm-up on Monday I struck out on a 15m circle (too many jumps in the way to go bigger!) to try it out. After each quarter of the circle, we made a transition to trot or canter. With the size of my circle, this ended up being about 6 strides in each gait before we had to transition. Going to the right, Dino and I really nailed this. Keeping him bent on the circle and packaged up between my leg and hand really helped him push under and lift into each transition. Bonus, I remembered to hold my reins at an appropriate length! After we'd done a few laps well, I kept him in canter on the same circle, half-halting up on my inside rein every once in a while to remind him to keep those shoulders up. D-Money gave me some really, really nice work! I was really trying to let him go after each half-halt, letting him carry us instead of constantly nagging him. Unfortunately, after all that awesomeness when I finally went to the left, Dino's butt was tired and couldn't give me the same effort, so I got some decent canters down the long side on the left lead and quit with that.
Yesterday I made it a point to work a lot more on that left lead, since it is Dino's weaker side. (And mine too, let's be honest! I probably create half of his problems to the left.) Pony was a little snotty going into the trot for our warm-up, I'm wondering if he was feeling a little ulcery. I should make sure to feed him some hay before I ride today to see if that helps. In any case, once we got going Dino was great. He really needs to canter around in order to truly loosen up, and after some running around his back was swinging and he felt awesome. I went back to the trot-canter circle exercise, this time starting on the left lead, and Dino did okay but was definitely having a little trouble with it. It's just hard for him to step under with his right hind to start the left lead canter since his right stifle is weaker, but he was giving me a good effort. I didn't work him too hard on the circle before riding him around the outside and making some larger circles that took up about half the ring. This was much, much easier for him, and I was able to get a really super, uphill left lead canter! It would have been even better if I had remembered to ride more with my core, but I did at least succeed in keeping a good contact with his mouth.
I threw in some small jumps - nothing over 2'3 - to keep Dino engaged in his work, just focusing on keeping a good rhythm and flow as we jumped a couple singles on a big loopy circle. We hit every distance perfectly, and the jumping was just so relaxed and fluid. I was really pleased! THEN we ran through our Training 2 test again. It went much, much better than it did last week, even though my pony was a little tired by that point. Dino worked really, really hard, so the next few days will be more chill as we get ready for the dressage show on Saturday.