Day 2 of Understanding Challenge

Had an awesome session with Aspen today!  Warmed up with some sideways toward me - finally got the backend to take a step.  The shoulders were easy but then she would get a little confused and drift forward.  If I put my back to the fence and ask her to come toward me as if I was sitting on it and wishing to mount I think it helped clarify to her what I was asking and the fence helped keep her straight and block excess forward motion.  I got a really nice step sideways toward me and I quit there, took a her a few minutes but then I got a nice lick and chew.  Totally worth the wait!

Did a couple circles OL to see how she was moving and feeling today.  She looked exceptionally nice, was very straight on the circle, responsive, soft.  Had some nice transitions and changes of direction.  Just did this for a minute or two and it felt so good we moved onto the weave.

So this is Day 2 of the Understanding the Weave/Long Line challenge to myself.  No riding again today because Aspen was soaked from the snow and the ground was a little slick... So we haven't begun that part of the understanding the canter/clover leaf challenge.

The weave went so amazing today!  I had wanted to video and I totally wish I had but the stormy weather was just too bad to tie my camera to the fence!  :(  I can only hope for another great session next time.  I sent her toward the barrels and she went straight for the first one and gave it a good shove with her nose and then gave me the greatest question ears - did you see that touchdown?!! :)  We did a F8 around the first two barrels (which are set up 5.5 stride apart, a perfect distance it turns out for us right now!) then weaved down the line.  At the last barrel instead of weaving back I had her circle at the canter and then as she came around again asked her to F8.  Got a FLC! Did a few revolutions of F8 then weaved down the line again.  Intermixed a few F8s at the trot as we weaved and it was just so awesome and smooth and fluid that I called it quits!  Aspen had a great expression and licked and chewed at the end which made me feel very successful!

So the big changes I made in myself these last two days have been being more particular about  where Aspen moves her feet and trying to correct her mistakes sooner so she isn't wrong for longer (until she thinks she's right because she's been wrong for so long).  My energy and focus are stronger heading forward, and my feet are moving less.  Also seeing when she's LB, like she was today, using that opportunity to be more interesting and provocative; when she's more RB to use more consistency and be a stronger leader by really directing her through the pattern until she's relaxed.

Next was the Z4/5 driving.  Because Aspen is really starting to get the weave I went straight to that.  Once again our turns away are going well as are our transitions.  She tends to lose a little forward motion at times and I think some of that comes from uncertainty of what I'm asking.  I need to be more aware of not choking up on her when that happens and creep from Z5 to 4 to 3  to 2 until the next thing I know I'm leading her around! ;)  Turns toward me were better today, I must remember to really exaggerate my shoulders turning where I want to go and think about drawing her eye toward me more a we turn.  I got some nice turns at the end and a good lick and chew.  Very nice!

I've also posted a few videos to YouTube and plan to post a few more over the next couple weeks.  The visual feedback of watching myself ride has really been invaluable.  Some of the standout things I've noticed from re-watching clips of me riding is that I look like a tense, sloppy mess.  LoL   Specifically I can see how my legs aren't really stretching back underneath me and I lean forward with my shoulders preventing me from crunching my dots and therefore making me unstable.  

I watched the video of my instructor, Jenny, on Aspen last summer and then compared it to my videos and I can see where some of the problem is just her being cranky and having druthers about cantering.  But I'm sure a lot of that is a learned behavior because it's probably so awful for her every time I ask her to canter.  I'm not assertive enough where I need to be so I can be effective and understood.  I've been riding wrong for so long that it feels right.  I've never had such a sensitive horse as Aspen and for a while it really was frustrating.  I just wanted her to be good so I could work on myself.  But now I see that if she had been good from the start I would have never realized all the areas my riding could be improved in - and probably wouldn't have sought out lessons or thought much more about it.  All my other horses were easy to ride... and all of them were LB for the most part too... Dang sensitive RB horses! ;)

One of the things I want to do before I leave for the Externship is find a couple more advanced horses to ride so I truly can work on myself a little now that I have an idea of what I need to work on.  It's hard to be balanced, relaxed, and in correct form when Aspen is an impulsive, bunched up ball of emotion.  I'd like to build some of my riding muscles on other horses and transfer that over when I ride Aspen.  Principle #7 - Horses teach humans.... :)  

But in the meantime I am going to make a strong focus to sit up and keep my shoulders over my hips, even if that feels like I'm leaning back a little... I think when I sit straight I feel like I'm actually tipping backward, so I am going to tie my camera to the fence and see if I can stay in the shot and experiment a little!  I'd also like to employ the Steady Rein technique more functionally and actually get some results out of it.  And I need to stop fighting the motion - my body is saying "go, just a little bit!" rather than "go, and be free and canter!" So I must regulate my energy better too...