Let's also agree that trainer rides are THE BEST THING ever for working ammies because omg "phoning it in" would be a generous description of how I'd been riding the two weeks up to the clinic, but the combination of trainer rides and having a champion baby mare means it was actually a really good experience for everyone. WUT.
Soooooo we last rode with this clinician back in like... October? At that point, she said many wonderful things about ZB's ability and told me 1) ZB will be very easy to get on the bit and ride correctly but 2) she must learn to come up and over to the bit, never ever down. This is a function of conformation--if I pull her head down, she'll dig a hole to China she's so on the forehand.
This is a concept that I really stressed in my daily riding. That's why you saw lots and lots of photos like this:
Right of the bat, clinician was like "wow she looks like a different horse have you done turns on the forehand?"
I sort of made a croaking noise. (Answer: trainer has done them with her. Go trainer!)
The idea was to teach ZB that leg=stretch down. Thus, I'd ask her to stretch in the halt, then ask for a single step of turn on the forehand, then immediately ask her to stretch down again. The idea being that she'd start to anticipate the stretch and associate it with the leg. (omg let the anticipation work for you. horse nerd training brain loooooved this.)
Of course, there are other answers then the right answer and because ZB is a clever lady, she started offering those as well. I think my favorite quote here was, "You do the right thing and wait for her to come to you." The was no punishment or rushing and because ZB is a champion baby mare, she pretty consistently started picking the right option. (um swoon srsly can you ever she is just the best).
Then we had to overcome some mental obstacles on my part--I'd give up to easily (but she wants to look at that other horse!) or overcompensate and do too many other things. Since I was asking ZB to bend to the inside, she just kept taking a smaller circle and I was getting all pretzel-y trying to make it big. Clinician pointed out that "she's not going to want to stay on the smaller circle. Let her make the mistake and then let her learn to listen to your leg."
Oh yeah I guess that super makes sense too huh.
The funny thing about this lesson is how I'm describing it in so many complicated sounding steps, but the actual riding of it was very simple. Once ZB was stepping up with her inside hind and reaching down with her neck, if I rode consistently and correctly and let her come to me, she connected across her back from inside leg to outside rein.
Of course, leave it to me to find interesting ways to screw things up. The moment we switched directions, I started overbending ZB's neck, which would cause... nothing good, haha. (It's not like I have a massive amount of baggage about turning right. OH SNAP YES I DO.)
The next video is a long one, but we started really putting it all together. Basically, I needed to be aware that she's learning every stride. If she's pulling, I need to change something so she has more good strides than bad strides. "On the bit or on the buckle" is our new mantra. That means either I am expecting her to work correctly or she is free to do whatever, but no weird half assing things in the middle.
We didn't actually get to canter this time out, but we talked about how to transfer those same concepts across.
It was a really fantastic lesson for both of us--I've felt like Zoë was ready to take the next steps, but I wasn't quite sure what those steps looked like. Now I feel confident going forward that we can work on these concepts and progress. At no point did I feel like either of us was overfaced or out of our depth and there was definitely a huge change in ZB's way of going in the lesson.
And now it is time to re-up my DayQuil.