Any thoughts that I'd gone overboard lately in the photo documentation department vanished after Wednesday's ride.
Look at enough pictures of chicken elbows, super long reins broken at the wrist and a horse politely (and not so politely) tolerating inconsistent contact while mincing about, and you're bound to generate a breakthrough. Not to mention double check that your leathers are even, and do your level best to sit in the middle in the saddle... and stay there. Progress through humiliation.
After warming up and taking up contact, I used every ounce of concentration I had to keep my reins shorter and maintain the feel of Val's mouth. And magically everything was easier. Transitions, turning, straightness. Another factor was moving straight to the whip if my leg wasn't answered immediately.
We rode for longer and did more trot work then we have in almost a year. Val was soaked, and so was I. We must improve our fitness as we (both) were sucking wind. Even though Val was tired, he stayed forward, and answered my leg. I posted with a smile glued to my face, and Val breathed deep happy rhythmic snorts.
Ride #2 -
As per usual, a ride full of progress is followed by... not so much. I invited A. over (my horse loving photographer friend) with tentative plans to get some video of the day's ride. The kiss of death.
Our warmup was difficult. I still haven't resolved the problem of Val gravitating to A. (or any visitor) other than persisting in asking him to go forward.
And then there was the end of the arena that Val wouldn't enter, no way no how. To the point of backing and even popping up a bit. I tried not to become irritated while pursuing other strategies. What eventually succeeded was inching our way down the arena with moving circles. Why, before we knew it, we had (safely) entered and exited the zone of death.
A few trot transitions to test the go button further, and we called it a day. Nothing video worthy to share - too bad for you guys! ;D
While cooling Val out I remembered that two nights before, howling winds had sent a large black garbage bag careening through the paddock. It fetched up on the electric fence - guess where - and was the cause of quite a scene the next morning when I came to feed. Mystery solved.
Another brief bout of stickiness in the warmup, with Val over-bending to the outside being nosy about some nonsense in the woods. Making sure not to give up my inside rein solved that issue. And again I kept the shorter reins and more contact. The feel of the contact is so much more, heavier, than I ever thought it should be. Val 's response told me what an improvement it was.
There were some cones set up on the perimeter of the arena like dressage letters. As we went round we circled or volte'd at every cone. Lots of transitions and changes of direction. The trot work was the best it's ever been.
If you look back through my blog I've said this same thing countless times. It has always been true, but this ride we sustained the work - the duration, the flow, as well as the energy. We did a fun school figure that was basically a three circle figure eight which took up the entire arena. Val was bending beautifully so the circles were actually circles. Round, while changing rein where the circles touched. Once again I smiled my face off and Val snorted happily all the way round the arena. Sublime.