In the meantime, we took a break from the Arena Of Death yesterday to over to the indoor down the road to have another lesson with Kim. In classic mystifying Ringo form, even though this would be a much more legitimate situation to be spooky in (being in a newer, stranger place, etc), he didn't care at all and was a total gem. Weirdo.
We started off with recapping our awesome Bronze Medal weekend to Kim and sharing out tests with her to look over. She was very complimentary (especially for the 8.5 we got on one of our changes!! Wahoo!!), but also picked up right away on some continuing trends in both tests that we could work on: namely, the quality of the trot, transitions in and out of the medium and extended trot, and transitions in and out of the shoulder in.
(Ringo's canter scores, complete with an 8.5 for our x2 coefficient flying change! The 6.5 is the transition back to trot -- clearly the canter is our speciality! What else would you expect from a horse and rider who both grew up more interested in galloping and jumping than tracing pretty figures in the sand?)
So to start, Kim had us do some very crisp trot-walk-trot transitions:
My first instinct was to try to ease into the walk and then ease back into the trot again to make everything smooth: wrong! While perhaps a steadier approach, transitions like that weren't going to actually achieve the purpose of getting him sharper off my aids. Instead, Kim wanted him to come RIGHT back to walk and then IMMEDIATELY back into a bright, active trot, with no muddle steps in between. It was surprisingly hard!
At some points, Kim had us add in some medium trot feeling on the circle as well to really get him cooking with gas:
In the medium trot, the focus for me was all on my hands: keeping them low and together with thumbs on top (no piano hands!!! A terrible habit I've picked up recently!!) and following forward--NOT pulling against him and shortening him! It was a hard habit to break, but the difference when I could manage it was big.
Once he was feeling more in front of my leg, the quality of his trot immediately became markedly better. I was able to slow him down and have him become more cadenced and floaty, instead of just inactive and shuffly like he usually does when I try to bring him back. We brought this new trot into some shoulder-in work, with the focus for me on smoothly transitioning from a 10m trot circle into the shoulder-in with no awkward adjustment period in between.
When we got it, it was awesome!
After a little break, we moved on to a little canter. Kim was impressed on the change in Ringo's canter even in the last two weeks: between all the spooking, I've really been working on the homework she gave me, and so was tickled that it showed! Ringo's more collected canter feels so powerful and effortless that I feel like I could float along forever: it's addictive. (Not quite as fun as galloping or jumping a perfect jump, but definitely the closest thing I've felt since transitioning to dressage!)
We worked on a little half pass, which, for video purposes, was mostly just a chance to show off how I'd sweated all the way through my shirt:
As it usually goes with me, just as I'm building some momentum, I've got to take a break for some reason. Now is just one of those times, as tomorrow I'm leaving for six weeks in California. I'll be working as a Teaching Assistant at a summer program at Stanford, catching up with friends, taking tons of photographs... and not doing a lot of riding. D'oh!