After riding in the clinic over the weekend, I realized that I was getting a lot of similar comments to what I've already received. Since I'm a fairly sharp person, I figured that even if I don't fix a problem the first time, maybe by the 10th or 11th time I'm told it, I ought to figure it out, right? ;-)
So. As much work as we need jumping, yesterday I dragged out the dressage saddle to take advantage of Cathy's area of expertise. Specifically, I need to 1) ride Izzy's hind legs up to the contact 2) provide contact to ride her up to and 3) forget about messing with her face. This can be done equally well in any saddle, but the dressage is good for us.
Off we went. Izzy was absolutely lovely--she even let me ride her forward. She was accepting the contact pretty well and I just had to focus really, really hard on engaging her hind end. When I got her stepping up behind, everything else magically went right. (Shocking, I know. I seem to have to re-learn this every couple months.)
About 2/3s of the way through my lesson, I realized that I needed to get off and take care of some, er, pressing female issues, shall we say. Thankfully, Cathy was willing to hop on and take Izzy for a spin. It warmed my lil' heart to see Izzy give Cathy the exact same act she was giving me as far as leaving her butt behind and lifting her nose to try and get her to fix that instead of ask her to work harder.
They worked through that and left me with several valuable lessons. (And oh how I wished I had my camera handy--Izzy looked great at the end of it.)
Lessons learned (hopefully)
1) I'm not riding the horse's face, so I need to leave the face alone and engage the hind end. If I engage the hind end, then Izzy is able to push forward off her haunches, round through her body, and stretch down into the contact. It feels great when done right. Someday, we'll do it right.
2) Contact buggers me more than it does her. My old mare never wanted more than an ounce of contact in each rein, and I've transferred that to Izzy. Thus, while Izzy isn't particularly bothered by a strong contact, I need to convince myself that it's ok to have some.
3) As I rider, I'm soft and quiet and tend to be somewhat ineffective. :-/ Sad, but true. I need to be willing to compromise my "pretty" position in order to use my aids more effectively. For example, in the canter, I just left my seat flow along with Izzy, which means we run downhill and almost trot uphill. When I watched Cathy ride and use her seat more definitely, I realized that Izzy is capable of a lot more than I'm asking her for. I need to use my seat in such a way as to say, "This is where I want you," and then keep her there. Once she figures it out, Izzy is pretty compliant.
Hm. Sounds like a bunch of stuff I should already know. I'll finish out the week doing dressage I guess... then I need to put together a better schedule for Izzy and I. We need to jump (well, do cavaletti mostly), work on dressage, and I want to get her out of the arena more often. It's good for us to do hard things.