I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas or other holiday of choice. I had a great day with my family, feeding the horses and even getting a few flakes of snow (!!!) in the otherwise weirdly mild and warm December we've been having. I got some great gifts, including three beautiful photo books that I've been dreaming about recently that deal with my favorite genre: rural America. I even got one that I'd been positively lusting over but hadn't told anyone in my family about, so I was totally blown away that my brother got it for me. I'm such a lucky girl.
(River of No Return, by Laura McPhee, a book that I've admired for a long time about life in one of the most rural areas of the US: the River of No Return Wilderness Area in Idaho)
(Sawdust Mountain, by Eirik Johnson, a book I'd never heard of but am really enjoying about the logging industry in the Pacific Northwest)
(A Road Divided, by Todd Hido, the book I've been drooling over recently; it's about rural landscapes seen through car windows (a way of looking at the world that I'm all too familiar with by now!))
I also got a real treat riding wise: a Boxing Day lesson with my dressage instructor from the summer, Kim! It was freezing cold (30º) but totally worth it. I really love Kim's instruction and have missed her very much this fall (not that I've had a bad substitute in Rachel!) and it was great to take another lesson with her on Kiki. I've only ridden Kiki a few times now since she went to Dayna's, and I've been very impressed overall with how well she's been feeling. They clearly did a good job with her.
When I got to the indoor for our lesson, Kiki was quite high. Because of this, our lesson was mostly focused on getting her more relaxed, which was a bit frustrating as she's been so relaxed and rideable at home recently. Kim was still able to give me some really good tools to carry forward, most notably:
-Counter bend: Kiki tends to get stuck and stabbing in her hind end at the same time that she's bouncing off the contact. Recently I (and Dayna and Shannon too) have been doing a lot of shoulder in work to try to get her more confirmed in the outside rein. This has been very useful, but Kim suggested I also think about a reverse exercise: bring the shoulders to the inside not by going into shoulder in but by suggesting a whisper of counter bend. This had the same straightening effect of a moderate shoulder in without allowing her to start pivoting and escaping with her hind end, which is a common evasion for her. This was by far the biggest help of the lesson and was really influential in improving Kiki's relaxation and quality of trot.
-Quiet Shoulders, Straight Body: pursuant to the counter bend work, Kim really had me focus on keeping my shoulders quiet and back, instead of leaning or twisting around corners as I'm naturally inclined to do. I even got to the point where, when I got to a corner, I thought about turning with only with seat while very consciously not moving my shoulders. For a horse as sensitive as Kiki, something as seemingly small as this made a huge difference in her balance and relaxation.
-Counting the Rhythm: Kiki has a tendency to quicken, and I'm always on the lookout for new strategies to help slow her down without tensing. Kim suggested a seemingly obvious solution that I've been overlooking: counting. Just counting the rhythm ('one-two-one-two-one-two') made a big difference.
I have videos, too! Here is some of our trotwork in either direction. As you can see, the good moments don't last very long, but they are definitely there! Kiki is such a star =)
I have a jump lesson on Thursday, and then am trying to get organized to go to the beach on Friday - fingers crossed!