I've had a few good rides since then and have managed to halt the crazy train that my mind had jumped on after our extra bad day.
The biggest success: I cantered at home, not in a lesson, and I got correct leads and balance and even relaxed trot work afterwards! The transitions were still crap and it took us a couple circles to get the balance and pace sorted out, but we still did it! I'm really happy that my work this fall at bringing everything back to basics is paying off.
|Look ma, we can canter!
I also had another lesson with D, our new local dressage instructor. My SO had the day off work so I dragged him out to my lesson and made him take video! Some of what felt like our best moments ended up being cut off or at a bad angle on the video which is unfortunate, but it's still awesome to have some media. We worked on pretty much the exact same things as last time, adding impulsion to working trot, trot lengthenings, shallow trot leg yields, trot-walk transitions, canter circles, stretchy trot. Kachina wasn't quite as stellar as the first lesson, but she was still really good overall.
|I see you person with camera
I found watching the video to be a helpful way to see where we're at right now. Both Kachina and I at various points lost our balance and got stiff. For me this would manifest by leaning forward, sticking my feet out in front of me, and pulling on the reins (sorry Kachina!). For Kachina this would manifest in hollowing her back, tipping her nose, doing motorcycle turns, and speeding up her tempo. However, these moments happened a lot less frequently than they used to. When one of these moments did happen, I was really happy to see that we were both able to recover and get back to where we should be within a few strides. Before, it might be a full circle before we got things under control. I need to continue this trend so that those moments of unbalance only last for a split second and then hopefully not at all.
|Wrong lead, tense, leaning
|Kachina: Hollow, running
Me: leaning, pulling, stiff
We aren't dressage superstars by any means, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that the video generally looked like one of a training level pair. Kachina isn't consistently on the bit, but that's not the point of training level. The official purpose is "To confirm that the horse demonstrates correct basics, is supple and moves freely forward in a clear rhythm with a steady tempo, accepting contact with the bit." I think that pretty well describes where we are at right now for the bulk of our rides (excepting those moments I mentioned above). Additionally, we can now achieve that with a nice forward working trot instead of the under-powered small trot we used to need to stay in control. That tells me that we are starting on the road to first level with developing that "thrust".
|20m trot circle with adequate amount of bend!
|Canter with happy relaxed looking mare
|This was the moment of our canter transition,
My position is terrible, but Kachina is actually uphill and sitting!
In these lessons with D, she is asking us to do a lot more than I've been doing at home. I'm torn on that. One one hand, Kachina seems ready to push the envelope a little bit, and I don't want to stay stuck on training level forever. On the other hand, we've come a long ways in the last few months and I don't want to push too hard and end up sliding back or creating training holes.
(our better ones were one the long side near the camera so hard to see)
Also, Megan's recent post over at A Enter Spooking about Baseline Gaits really got me thinking. As I'm adding in new exercises, I'm finding that I have to be a bit naggy to keep the bend and roundness. That's not a good end goal, so maybe I need to go back and focus on them a bit more until Kachina is comfortable enough with the concepts to hold them with more limited reminders from me.
This weekend I have my next clinic with Sandra (that I am also organizer for). I'm really excited to hear what she thinks about where we're at and what we should be working on for the next couple months.