One of my favorite quotes is:
"Hope for the best; expect the worst. Life's a play, we're unrehearsed".
Yesterday, it suited so perfect.
I expected Moon to be a sassy, stiff, obstinate pony for my lesson. Granted, he started out such, but W pointed out a few key fixes to our problems.
1. When he twists his neck, lift with the outside rein and bump with the outside leg. You have to straighten him before you can ask for inside bend again.
2. When he drops his shoulder and starts to break gait coming out of the corner, leg-on. It's easier for him to break then to drive.
3. In 10 m circles, he tries to shift me to the outside so that he can lean; the key is to keep my weight to the inside and 'hug' with my legs gently on his belly. This will also keep my heels down in the inside stirrup, reduce my bouncing and allow me to continue to give cues.
After a few laps, he started to improve and supple-up. He's turning into a lateral monster, actually seeming to enjoy leg yielding. His 10 m trot circles improved when I stopped letting him keep me to the outside, and in turn, my sitting trot improved greatly. We had a couple 10 m circles that were bang-on, and were followed by lovely 90 degree turns into leg yielding.
We moved on to start working with lengthening and shortening his trot strides. This was a challenge, and I had the issue of him dropping out of the trot when coming down the long side of the ring, and then twisting and bracing his neck. No amount of 'bumping' would get him continuing to drive forward, rather he'd collapse onto his shoulders and it'd be a mess.
For Moon, it's not his 'norm', and so he doesn't want to do it. W said that sometimes it seems like he doesn't *think* he can do it, until you keep telling him he can. Then *bang* he's got it.
Finally I asked for the dressage whip. W said to just tap him on the rump when he started to disengage and drive him forward.
So we came around the bend, he cocked his head, braced and started falling out. I *meant* to tap his rump...instead I under judged the maneuverability of the dressage whip...and gave him a smart snap to it instead. He LEAPT into a canter stride or two (W informs me it was the correct lead) and then returned to a more energetic trot.
I was a little embarrassed, but pleased with myself. He's trying to avoid the work and ignoring me as the rider, which is not tolerable. The instant he starts ignoring me and my aids, is the instant we lose our partnership and our ability to move forward. The smart smack to the bum seemed the perfect reminder that when I ask him to respond to my leg, RESPOND.
After that he was WAY more responsive. I even put the whip away and he continued to be engaged and pay attention. He gave me stellar little 10 m trot circles, I sat them like a dream and we started to get the beginning of lengthening and shortening his stride.
W informed me after a couple of lengthening exercises that he's been holding out, and has a lovely long stride when he actually drives. Honestly, he feels so much more lively when he's covering the ground with long driving strides.
All of this is setting us up for practicing our canter again, which hopefully we'll give another go to next week. The thing that occurred to me rather out of the blue the other day, is that he HAS done really nice 25 m canter circles for me out in the field at Teresa's. Consistently. So why not now??? I have a feeling, it's me and my fear of crashing into the arena walls...
After the lesson he got some carrots and went naked in the paddock. The weather was soo warm and all the snow is melting away. We're pretty much back to grass (or mud really), which is abnormal here. W promised to peak in on him at the night rotation and blanket him if he needed it. She told me that his girlfriend actually comes in a 9 pm, but stayed out longer then the others (everyone else comes in at 6) since she's been a little extra hyper lately. I was also told that she *promised* Mr. Moon that he could come inside on the very cold nights, which made me chuckle. She's such a softie, and he's certainly won a little piece of her heart. : )
I've also received 5 more stall sign orders, and had to place an online order for wood since my regular supplier can't keep up with the demand. I went so far as to make myself a little webpage so people could have some idea of what they're getting, and left a couple of business cards at the barn. I'm hoping to be done the current orders by Christmas, meaning a nice chunk of change for my show fund.