Thursday or Friday last week I had a dressage lesson with Maggie. I got there early to get things together and tried to make time to lunge the pony in the side reins. But first I had to take off some blankets. Jellybean and Gracie are in a paddock by themselves currently, and the pond pasture beside them is empty (except for turnout horses, of which there were none). So I decided to bring Knots into the pasture with Jelly and Gracie and then move them into the pond pasture where they would be easier to catch.
Unfortunately they didn’t realize they could move into the next pasture… so I had to convince them. And then they went crazy, running around the entire pasture back and forth, over the ditches. For about five minutes. I stood by and watched the chaos, running ponies are fun ponies. They got some good bucks out and seemed very pleased to be running around. Its funny that they had so much energy, considering they live outside 24/7…
Anyways. Eventually I caught Knots and brought him inside to get tacked up. I got him ready to go and started lunging him when I realized I was behind. Again. Luckily Sarah doesn’t send me too much hate mail when I am not warmed up completely when she arrives. She took advantage of the extra car heater time before she came to the arena.
On the lunge line, with the side reins, Knots is starting to give to the bit a lot more. He isn’t quite rounding, but he isn’t fighting the contact nearly as much. He was having a tendency to fall behind the vertical, and I got more active with the whip in order to keep pushing him into the contact. We mostly worked at the trot, but I did want to see a few rounds at the canter, just to evaluate his strength. He wasn’t having as much trouble relaxing at the trot, but the canter is still a great challenge.
And so, once warmed up a little bit on the lunge line, we got started under saddle. He was immediately softer in the bridle than the last time we rode. Honestly we had the best work I have ever felt from him. He did outstanding the first 20 minutes or so before he got tired. He was even lifting his back!!!!! It was fun, because here he was putzing along, trying, when suddenly his nose kind of disappeared and his trot got a lot more floaty!
I also talked to Sarah about my revelation, which I haven’t actually discussed much here. I kind of feel like I am installing a “comfort” button on Knots, in that when he is getting frantic I can move him from my inside leg to outside rein, and he immediately drops his head a little bit and relaxes. Sarah pointed out that is wasn’t a comfort thing so much as a forced reality. When he moves off my inside leg, he’s forced to balance himself more, which makes him more easily influenced by my aids. Hmmm. So basically my “comfort” button was just getting him on the aids. :p who knew?!
Aside from the hints of self carriage we achieved, there was also some work on upward transitions. Specifically, we worked on going from the walk to the trot while Knots was not resisting the bit or using his underneck to pull himself into the trot. The goal was to use my seat (and some clucks) to get him to push himself from his hind end into the trot. He tends to throw his head up in the air and pull himself into the trot. I’ve never really thought about how to make upward transitions more refined. This is definitely something I’m going to be thinking about for awhile. All in all, lots of things to think about, and definitely moving in the right direction.