In a strategy learned from my pony club days, here's an "oreo sandwich" version of my lesson (positive start, gooey troubling middle [delicious], and a crisp positive close):
The Good (Part I):
I hadn't taken a lesson with Ky in a month, and so it was great to bring him out and have Kim agree on how much progress he's made in even a pretty short time. We worked even more on getting him more consistent into the contact, and Kim gave me some great pointers: namely, to break up asking him to be 'up' and connected, which is really hard for him, with lots of breaks of stretching to keep him fresh and cooperative, instead of getting into a spiral of fighting which is normally the route we end up going down.
(I have a lot of video but am too exhausted to upload them, so here are some crappy stills)
When I got him straight and stretching--WOW! His trot was killer awesome. I was able to sit it well (I looked up at myself in the mirrors and actually saw a dressage rider looking back at me instead of a floppy eventer trying to cling on desperately--THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN OFTEN AND WAS HUGE). The connection is definitely a problem that's going to take a while to solve, but if the glimmers of brilliance I got yesterday were any indication, it will be well worth the trouble to solve. This little dude's going places, man. I'm very excited.
(Ky thought the dogs playing nearby were wayyy more exciting than posing for a picture)
I came back for my lesson with Ringo, and it felt like the wheels came off pretty startlingly quickly. I thought he warmed up really well, but when we went to work I was having a very hard keeping him straight and the exercise Kim set up to do (leg yield off the wall into a shoulder fore on the quarter line, at trot and then at canter) really highlighted my struggles.
I got a little confused by the way Kim was explaining what she wanted, and then got progressively more and more confused and frustrated as she attempted to explain herself. It was a classic miscommunication problem that I take full responsibility for (I didn't articulate what was confusing me nearly well enough), but the end result was that we got into a long wrangle about the theory of shoulder-fore, and I came out of it feeling like an inarticulate idiot and was pretty sure that Kim was thinking the same thing. D'oh. Definitely not my intention. I tried to set it aside and keep going, but I was definitely a little mentally flustered from then on.
(Gahh the low inside hand, a perennial problem)
By that point as well, Ringo and I were just flat out tired, both mentally and physically. Kim kept pushing us (as she should! There's no way we're going to improve if we don't leave the comfort zone every now and then) but I really felt like I was lacking in both skills and horsepower to do what she was asking (really get Ringo to sit into a more collected and shorter canter). He kept breaking, and breaking, and breaking, and I felt like I was doing literally everything in my power to keep him from doing so but just couldn't make it happen.
Then we moved onto some canter-walk transitions, which are one of Ringo's weakest movements, which we obviously bombed because at this point we were both exhausted and I was tense and completely frazzled. The canter-walk transitions are an especially sore subject for me because they are a 2nd level movement, so whenever I can't do them satisfactorily (which, by the way, is ALWAYS), I always feel like like a total sham and moron for even considering hoping to move up to 4th level next year. We did some mediocre ones that neither Kim nor I was very happy with, and then ended. Whomp whomp. It was with a pretty deflated feeling that I headed home.
The Good (Part II):
In contrast, Ringo's trot seems to be going from strength to strength. I felt like I sat really well, and Kim agreed that his frame is looking stronger and better all the time. It's somewhat confusing to me, as historically his canter has always been sooooooo much stronger than his trot, and so perhaps that's why I'm having a hard time grasping the amount of homework his canter currently requires, but I'll definitely take improvement where I can get it. Good boy, Ray!
Unfortunately I now am leaving for a week-long trip to New Orleans for Thanksgiving and my friend's wedding, which means plenty of time to stew and no time in the saddle to start moving forward. I'm definitely not crushed, but to say that it wasn't a frustrating day would be a lie. Of course, failure is a key part of the road to success, so I'm more excited to look forward, learn from this disappointment, and come out even stronger in the future.
Happy holidays, everyone! See you in a week :)