After a couple days (okay, weeks, I'm not going to kid myself) of questioning whether or not I was actually making progress, the princess decided to have one of her breakthrough days. Is this a result of her having a couple weeks with no real dressage work? Or that long ride outside? Or the fact she was acting like a fool in turnout again and burned off extra energy? No idea, but however we got there, I like it.
The princess actually picked herself up and carried herself today. This is a major moment, since that means she's actually strong enough to do it now. We've been using this long rein warm up that she seems to like. I just give her all the rein she wants and let her trot around however she wants for five or ten minutes. No frame, no balancing, I don't even worry about rhythm. Just let her warm up and burn that edge off. Seems to be working out for us. I picked up the reins, asked for a bend, and she picked herself right up like a big girl and went to work. I was flabbergasted. It's been awhile since I was able to sit up and ask for a leg yield and get a horse that just moves over. No hissy fits, no arguments, just lateral movement. I knew it was in there this whole time, and she finally just went for it.
Thank goodness. I was ready to just write off any decent scores as the dressage tests got harder. She got tired, since that's still very new, and we had to have stretch breaks, but she did it! She carried herself! She managed to not fall on her face in a perfectly level ring! That's quite the accomplishment.
She also broke my dressage whip. Twice.
Fiona believes that the world is her personal chew toy, and my sparkly blue dressage whip is particularly tempting. She has successfully yanked it out of my hand when I wasn't paying enough attention and has almost completely chewed the knob off of the handle. It's downright embarrassing to try to get your horse to let go of your whip so you can actually use it.
Tomorrow I pick up her new mullen mouth loose ring snaffle and we'll see what she thinks. I've also been able to ride her bareback now, and she thought I was odd but acceptable. Which is her usual reaction to me. The hackamore is working out, she even went for a long hack in it. Brakes are still better with a bit, but we managed to go for a gallop in the orchard and not die, so I would call that a successful outing. I'll keep swapping between tack and jobs, it actually seems to work.
Dressage clinic is on Monday and I've confirmed that I will be heading to Aiken, SC for a week in March for an adult boot camp. That should be very, very educational for both of us.