Two rides in one weekend again? Goodness, at this rate, I might even make some progress!
First was my clinic with Pam Goodrich. I was a nervous wreck since I was watching Trainer Z and a Grand Prix stallion work on very detailed, carefully timed work. It was a lot but also great to watch since she's working on keeping her horse straight the same as me! Of course she's doing it in a passage while I'm doing it in a walk but it's still the same idea. I told Pam that I was coming back from injury and would probably need some extra breaks but otherwise, it was just like any other clinic I've ridden in. I even bought new breeches because there was no way I could ride in a clinic without wearing a belt. Just NOPE.
A lot of the focus was on getting Theo straight as we're both naturally asymmetrical. Theo's a lot better now that he's being ridden by a balanced professional most days but he will always, always want to pop that left shoulder. It's just the way he's built. A lot of it comes down to making it so I'm not talked into picking up my inside rein. It's inside leg to outside rein, not random chaos at the bit to kicking him because he's got nowhere to go with the leg.
We really worked his weaker right lead canter to chase down that bit of lateral movement that he'll get as you move into collection. I worked him on a 20 meter circle while holding on to that outside rein like my life depended on it. Don't let him talk me into a false hinge to the right as a 'bend'. After a couple circles, I found the sweet spot where he shortened his stride behind while lifting his shoulders up and out of the way. That last piece of his neck, right in front of the saddle, connected and all of a sudden he went light. I thought the clinician and Trainer Z were both going to throw a party. It was a true collected canter on the right lead. We held it long enough for me to wrap my brain around the sensation, then walked and ended the ride on that very high note.
Two days later saw me in my regular lesson with Trainer Z. I felt fine after my clinic ride so we agreed I'm ready for big girl lessons. So sure enough, we did big girl stuff. We worked on the connection through my elbows and keeping a straight line to the bit no matter what. We worked on getting him into true collection in all three gaits since he's now strong enough and educated enough that it's second nature to him. I just need to figure out how to get there. I was introduced to his 'fun' trot which is cadenced, strong, and balanced. It doesn't feel as big as I thought it should but it you settle at just that right tempo and power, you get a light, balanced trot that you can move laterally with ease. Also judges love it. Keeping it? Yeah, good thing I've got a long, long time before I may consider returning to the show ring. It's definitely a delicate balance.
We also worked my counter canter and how to properly set it up so Theo remains balanced and knows what's coming. Suddenly yanking him off his feet to do a counter canter loop isn't fair so he gets all the prep he needs on the short side before starting the serpentine. I had no idea. It was awesome to ride a balanced, calm, collected counter canter after chasing it for so many years.
I don't know how I'm going to manage it, but I'm going to start working toward two rides a week. I'll figure it out one way or another. We're making so much progress now!