Even though I am still coughing I decided to keep my lesson appointment yesterday. I'm so glad I did even though it wiped me out.
Winter has finally hit Cincinnati and 20 F is just too cold to ride outside so I went to Jodie's barn and rode one of her horses, Bitsy.
Bitsy is an Appendix QH, about 19 years old and a been there done that kinda girl. She's trained to third level Dressage and very forgiving of rookie mistakes.
To get the most bang for my lesson buck I always go with a "This is what I want to learn/do today" and yesterday was learning 1. How to get a horse long and low with hind quarters engaged and back rising, and 2. How to teach Rosie to do it.
Jodie said Bitsy was the perfect horse for this as she will be tolerable when I get to the "how to reach Rosie" part.
There is so much that goes into riding Dressage - you want your horse light, so you have to be light. Light in posting, light in seat... Do you have any idea how hard it is to keep your calves on a horse to push them forward, but keep your butt muscles as light as marshmallow with no tension while posting? All the while keeping your heels down, your shoulders back and down, head up, fingers closed on the reins, and the thumb the highest point (think holding an ice cream cone) on the reins. oh.. and to breath. Breathing is important.
To get long and low at the trot the horse has to be forward, very forward into contact, and you need to be doing all the above almost perfectly. Then you lengthen your reins while keeping the horse moving forward and engaged, the horse is supposed to seek the contact.
Let me tell you, Bitsy made me work for it and I also realized my balance still has room for improvement, but I wasn't horrible - only a couple times where I fell on my "forehand". I'd stop, apologize to Bitsy, then go back to it.
In no time I getting very nice long and lows, feeling her power from behind, lifting her shoulders and swinging around the arena. On the last time around Jodie asked me to really give it all I've got going down the long side so I did and I achieved my first ever extended trot - on any horse.
Then I asked her to fix my canter equitation. Rosie is teaching me a very bad habit of pushing with my seat, nagging essentially to stay in the gait and I need to nip that in the bud.
Bitsy has the best canter. Balanced, rocking chair smooth and just there. Started from the trot, she immediately picked up when I asked and all I could do was smile. I sat deep, I relaxed, I smiled.
I learned there is a queue difference to keep the canter between English and Western. In Western all queues are done with the outside leg. Nothing is ever done with the inside leg. In English, once you are in the canter and you feel the horse start to slow, or wanting to break to trot you use your inside calf to remind them hold the gait. Apply calf, and relax. That whole "relax" thing is often forgotten.
By the end of the lesson I was doing walk/canter transitions by breathing and thinking. I LOVED IT.
It was one of those lessons and rides where you have an "after glow" long after.