To get ready for the upcoming clinic, Izzy and I did a lesson with our "usual" trainer today. It's hard to day usual when I think I've had five lessons this year, but who's counting? ;-) Basically, I wanted to be sure our issues from our last lesson came completely from the saddle pad issue and not from having someone in the arena with us.
Thankfully, the lesson went really, really well. Cathy actually did a little with my position to prep us for the clinic and because we're getting to the point where I can work on me again. Yay! I know that sounds selfish, but I think most horse people understand what I mean. We're to the point (at least today) where we can work on refining the aids instead of just going forward and stopping.
Our walk/trot work was really nice. I spent out warmup time just doing little serpentines and figure eights with frequent gaits changes to get Izzy relaxed and listening. Cathy liked our trot and had us do some lengthen/shortens. We're only supposed to shorten for just a couple strides right now because Izzy likes to stop and we don't want her too confused about what I'm asking for. The lengthen isn't a true dressage lengthening yet, but we're working on making her stride adjustable.
We actually did (gasp!) canter on the left lead. Izzy tends to get very up and tense and start pushing through her right shoulder when I ask for this lead, so we hadn't even tried in a couple weeks. I thought we needed to work on other issues before pushing this one. Cathy had me work on pushing my hands forward when her head came up instead of shortening the reins to keep the contact. This and keeping her evenly between my calves while not getting tight in my thighs... It worked! We had a nice upward transition into the left lead.
While in the canter, I had to work on keeping my body "swinging" with Izzy's motion instead of tightening up. Again, I had to push my hands forward and even a bit up (sounds weird, but I tend to carry my hands very low). It was remarkable how much even these little changes helped Izzy. He canter was nice, not chargy, and fairly soft.
The right lead was pretty good as well. I have done a bit on the right lead lately, but I knew our canter wasn't good, so we hadn't done much with it. Our last downward transition (to trot) from the right lead was really nice--balanced and forward.
I do need to work on keeping my shoulders loose. I'm pretty good about having them back and down, but I get tight. I need to push my lower legs a little farther back--I've been riding in a defensive position which is ok for a green horse, but it's time to move on. And, as always, I need to keep my thumbs up. I forever ride with flat hands.
I guess this is pretty involved for a lesson summary, but I don't take many, so I like to remember what I learned. Tomorrow, I'll practice wrapping Izzy's legs one more time before the clinic. We'll be riding with Donna Longacre, the director of region 6 and quite an accomplished judge. I hope I can get someone to take pictures. I plan to have Izzy all suited up in white polos with white bell boots and a white saddle pad. Her tack is clean, and I'll try to wear a white polo as well. So classy.