This is another dressage week and, because Ann is down in Aiken for the week, I had two lessons with Kelly -- Wednesday & Thursday nights. As I've mentioned before, I feel like dressage are the harder of the weeks and I feel like I am working harder and harder at it as I'm starting to catch on to everything. The latest breakthrough for me has been "inside leg to outside rein". It's become a sort of mantra with me. Pretty much every stride I am chanting this in my head. I've heard and read about this dressage rule, concept whatever, but I think I've just finally started to get it (as well as really feel what it does) and I'm so excited. I know, I know, very strange thing to be excited about, but I'm finding that it's working! And I'm actually able to now control my legs and my body enough to have some effectiveness too. The other thing that Kelly has been emphasizing is suppling the inside rein. So in my head I am chanting, 'inside leg to outside rein. supple, supple. inside leg to outside rein." Rinse, repeat. Non-horsey people will read this and go "WTF???". It's just a dressage thing, I guess.
The other thing that I've been working on with Lulu are walk or trot to canter transitions, and also trying to get her left-lead canter consistently. Another goal is to carry herself lighter on the forehand than she wants to do. This is all still pretty challenging to me as I think I'm still pretty sloppy at the canter myself. I can trot around all day long, even while working hard every stride, but cantering, I just get so tired, so easily and it's all I can do to create the transition and sit the gait, any subtleties beyond that are a big challenge to me right now. But I'm working on it. Late this afternoon I went down to the barn for a "free" ride and I made a point of working on the cantering in particular. I did lots & lots of transitions and then progressed to figure 8s with simple lead changes. I had been wanting to try this with Lulu for a while, but I wanted a day when I had the ring to myself. For the space, but mostly because I didn't want an audience. I trotted a couple of different figure 8s, plotting out the best place to do them and then went for the canter. Well, Lulu was a superstar! I was so, so happy with her. The figure circles were pretty small, maybe about 10-15 meters. At each transition I brought her down to a trot step or two and then she hopped right into the opposite lead for the track to the new circle. She did it so well that I felt like she was really almost just a step away from a flying lead change. We did this a number of times in both directions and then I was ready to call it a day and spent a good, long time walking her out because she had really worked up a sweat.
I very rarely manage to get myself out to the barn on a Friday to ride, so it was a really nice change for today. I great cap off to the week.