I am working on connection and bend.
I have spent a lot of time with Kachina working on the bottom of the dressage pyramid: rhythm and relaxation. In some ways I feel like I should be further along, but I also know it can't be rushed. We've had a pretty good walk for a while now, but I've just recently gotten to a point with Kachina where we can more consistently get a relaxed trot with an even tempo. There are still moments where we start rushing or hollowing, but it's now 10-20% of the time, instead of 50%+.
|This was from my ride in the Stubben Maestoso that fit me terribly,|
but I still think this is a cool shot.
Now that the relaxation and rhythm are improved, I've been starting to focus more on connection. Kachina used to frequently curl behind the bit. That was challenging as you need leg to get her to stop curling, but adding more leg when she was already running was hard. Thankfully, as she has developed better rhythm and relaxation, her tendency to curl has all but disappeared. She now sticks her nose out in front. Also not ideal, but easier to address.
I now spend a fair bit of time trying to get her to soften to the bit. This occurs in two ways. I am working on the longitudinal suppleness and getting her to soften at the poll. However, her tendency to twist her nose to the outside, combined with my tendency to ride too much off the outside rein makes us pretty crooked a lot of the time. So, I've also really been working to let go of the outside rein and get her to soften of the inside rein and inside leg and bend. Once she is on the inside bend, getting her to connect to the rein is much easier. I think we are on the right track, but if anyone has some good exercises for working on connection or bend, I would love to hear them!
We're also still working on canter transitions. But I've learned that those don't work too well unless we are soft and bent correctly, so if we don't get to them in a ride that's not the end of the world. In the canter, we are still working on relaxation, though the rhythm has improved.