Just Clicking Along
I have to say that I've put in some very, very nice dressage rides on Ruby over the past few days or so. On Tuesday night I had a lesson with Danielle (who was subbing for Alison) -- by the time the lesson was over, she was very complimentary of our progress, she even said, "That was really very lovely". That's the thing about riding with a substitute, they're more likely to see bigger leaps in your progress since they don't watch you ride every day (or even every week).
I didn't ride for a couple of days because of the horrible weather, so I did not know really what kind of horse I was going to have on Friday -- but she couldn't have been better. I started my lesson at the tail-end of a jumping lesson for a couple of Alison's more advanced students, so I was lucky to be able to watch their jumping courses. I find that I learn a lot by watching others jump (especially in a lesson, and especially advanced students) and I also find it exciting and inspiring, so I'm usually pretty happy when I luck into spectating.
After the jumping, they left me with the ring to myself, which I actually enjoy. As I struggle with my own inadequacies, I can often feel a little self-conscious (less so in a lesson, for some reason), so I enjoy the occasion when I can have the ring all to myself so I can work through stuff without an audience. I wasn't sure if Ruby would be a little spookier or whatever alone, since I hadn't had the chance to ride her alone in the ring in quite a while, but (other than a tiny little tantrum as the other horses disappeared up the path), she was quite fine. I was able to get her focused right away and down to the work.
I have to say that I am very pleased with her trot work these days. I feel like every week she is just a little bit easier to put into a frame, uses her back and hind-end just that much more, is just that much more willing to go forward. Her gaits are pretty good, her impulsion is improving, she's becoming more supple. Her work to the right is stiffer than to the left, but she is definitely better than she was. And our canter work. I just dreaded the canter with her a mere few weeks ago -- I would actually feel myself even start to get slightly anxious about it. But now I have to say that our canter transitions are 100% better, She steps very willingly into the gait, she has good impulsion from behind, it's a nice gait to sit to, I no longer feel like she's going to break back to trot at any second. To the left it's lovely, balanced, steady, etc. To the right she still needs work, but it is SO much better than it was. Still having a little trouble consistently getting the lead (and I'm sure a big part of this is my own short-coming, so I have to work on being clearer and more balanced myself). She needs help getting balanced at the canter to the right, she can also get hollow and will toss her head. But. She will step into the transition much more easily and more fluidly than she would even just a couple of weeks ago, she will balance with work, and there are usually a few magical, wonderful strides where she is balanced and carrying herself just right -- we didn't have even one stride of that magic to the right just a short time ago, so I can definitely see a lot of progress. I even did a misshapen canter figure-8 with her today! The circles weren't perfect, but she picked up the correct lead for each circle and did the simple change within a couple of steps, so I was very pleased with her.
All-in-all, I feel like Ruby has come a long way since April. I was thinking today that she also seems much more forward than she was, I definitely am able to be much more subtle with my leg aids (at least this week that has been the case). I'm wondering if maybe she's just in better shape now with all the work. Perhaps that and she's getting a feel for the job. Over all, I am very, very happy with her. I gave her lots of carrots today (and some peppermints) as a reward.