I swear, this whole "riding with consistent contact" thing is like magic.
Rain and a nasty headache kept me from the barn on Wednesday this week, but I was able to get back in the saddle on Thursday.
Dino had clearly spent his day off thinking about everything we worked on at the trainer's, and came out the next day ready to work and super focused!
He's starting to go like a whole different pony, in a really good way. I pick up the reins, and he just drops into the contact. No pulling, no insistence on my part, Dino just holds my hand. After a few laps of easy walk and trot, and no nagging with my leg, Dino began pushing forward with his hind end and propelling us around the ring with purpose. AND I JUST SAT THERE AND DID NOTHING. The fact that he's choosing to use his engine and move forward all on his own is absolutely huge. The fact that he's doing it right at the beginning of our rides and not after 20 minutes of transitions just to get him off my leg is even more monumental.
The canter, however, was the best part of Thursday evening's ride. I was really trying to keep in mind everything I had practiced in my lesson - short reins, no nagging, and riding my pony like I trust him to keep going. Dino rewarded me with the most phenomenally balanced, round canter - even accepting the contact and going round and in balance while I was in half seat! I felt like I was riding a made dressage pony, and it was so, so awesome. I'm learning to let go and trust Dino to be responsible for the impulsion, and he's showing me that he really appreciates my efforts.
On Friday afternoon I set up the grid that we had worked on in my lesson - one stride, to a bounce, to a two stride. I left the second fence in the bounce as a ground pole at first, and every other jump was nice and low and friendly. Dino was a little more sluggish than he was the day before, but we were able to work out of it and get some nice flatwork done before jumping.
Coming to the grid, I kept all positive thoughts in my mind: ride forward, short reins, trust the canter, and kick on! If Dino felt unsure or started to back off the jumps, my plan was to just kick forward and get him through the grid, no matter how messy it turned out.
I picked up our beautiful, balanced, forward canter-on-contact, and pointed Dino at the grid. He hesitated, but I stuck to the plan and rode through it, and we made it out the other end in one piece. The confidence he'd gained from our lesson had stuck! We jumped through the grid a couple more times with the second element of the bounce as a ground pole before I hopped off and put it up to a small vertical, as well as adjusting the distance of the two-stride element so that Dino wouldn't be superman-ing it out of there.
Dino had figured out the footwork, and jumped through the grid with all elements as actual jumps absolutely perfectly! I was ECSTATIC! We went from barely being able to make it through the exercise in our lesson, to totally owning it yesterday afternoon. I couldn't be more pleased! I only wish I had video to share!
After our triumphant victory over the grid, I hopped on poor neglected Hugs for her only ride from me this week. She was a good girl, as always, and I worked on some transitions and figure-8's with her. She's older and a little creaky, so I really focused on getting her to relax and soften in her body. Miss Hugs was stretching down and snorting happily by the end of the ride, so I was quite pleased with that!
I hope everyone had a safe and happy Halloween, and that y'all are ready for No Stirrups November! I haven't quite figured out what my participation in this painful event will look like, but I hope to end the month with a better seat and stronger legs.