I know I can't have as many lessons as I want, so it's in my best interests to read up on riding a lot and audit anything I can. It's not the easiest or most fun way to learn, but it's certainly the cheapest. My car was in the shop the other day and it cost a third more than it was supposed to, so I am left with a whopping $30 in my checking account until I get paid. Yay!
Obviously, a lesson was not in the cards. Plus the outdoor is unusable right now and the footing in the indoor is crap, so it's hard to get really good work in.
I wanted to get a new book on dressage to work on over the next couple months, but that's not really a good idea. Fortunately, I have the USDF guide to dressage in my little library. I pulled it out and read 2 pages yesterday. It was weird--I just kind of opened the book and started reading. I was on a section about the walk and how to ride it. Izzy has a lovely walk naturally, but under saddle she tends to suck back behind my leg and not want to go forward, which has me doing all kinds of stupid things and our walk looks like crap.
So. After reading the section, I went out for our ride. I meshed what Cathy talked about in our last lesson with what I read in the USDF book and sections I gleaned from 'Kottas on Dressage' that I was oogling at Borders. I focused on keeping my shoulders back and head up, creating the ear-shoulder-hip-heel alignment. I bent my elbows in order to carry my hands up and forward, which creates a straight line from my elbow to the bit. I stretched up through my core and down through my legs, allowing them to "hang like strips of limp bacon". I don't know why that image caught me, but it did.
Then I asked Izzy to walk forward. One gentle squeeze with my calves. She sort of responded--she started to slowly ambled forward. I asked for more--she ignored me. I escalated, first with a firmer sqeeze (and release), then adding the whip. She gave me more and I backed off. Sometimes I forget to reward her with a release, which means we ride around with her ambling, my legs locked on, and my heels up. Not a pretty picture.
As soon as I released, I noticed that Izzy would return to her lazy amble. I repeated the sequence of the aids and released as soon as I got a response. I asked for more; she trotted. As the book directed, I rode the trot for a few strides, then brought her back to walk. Trot was more forward, so it is sort of correct. For about 15 minutes, we just worked on walking and changing directions with the occasional halt thrown in. To halt, I practiced "zipping up my abdomen" which worked really, really well. It's weird how Izzy knows aids that I didn't know enough to teach her. Smart mare.
I must brag about this: we had about 3-4 strides of a lovely walk with Izzy connected from back to front, hind end engaged, neck stretching down to the bit and the withers as the highest point. It felt AMAZING!!!
I tried to transfer some of the awesomeness we were practicing into our trot work--going forward, staying soft and in position. I kept Izzy and myself honest by doing a trot circle on the bit, then sliding my hands down the reins to do a stretchy trot circle so she was reaching down while staying balanced and forward.
Wow, what a ride.
I noticed that when I had Izzy truly engaged, her walk/trot transitions lacked the head-tossing resistance we've had lately. Win!
Things to work on for next time:
1) MORE! Specifically, continue to ask and then release when getting a response to my forward driving aids in order to allow Izzy to learn what I'm looking for.
2) Less! When Izzy does what I want, I need to be sure I give a quick break instead of constantly niggling with my aids to get something else.
3) Halts--Izzy likes to stop, so I need to remember to keep my leg on as I zip up my abs to halt. This will produced a square and more balanced picture.
Oh, and the funny thing? The dressage bridle I ordered like a month ago showed up yesterday, so I came home from my ride to have a dressage-y reward waiting for me. Sweet! The odds of a ride today are bad. Wednesdays are super busy. I will be out tomorrow, though, and I can't wait.