It started off with lots of walking as usual. Saga was "forgetting" his hind feet, which he sometimes does if he's not really pushing off from behind. The result of this is that he feels like he's tripping behind, or taking off steps. It goes away as I ride him, and push him more forward.
So as we were walking around, he kept counter-flexing in the corners, and he kept drifting WAY off the rail and ignoring my inside leg. I decided to take Greta's advice and just keep him forward and straight, but straight was not in the cards. We moved on to a trot to work on forward , and he was sort of careening around the arena at varying speeds. It was definitely not nearly as nice as what I got when we were at Pine Hill, and decidedly worse than he was last night when we were trying out saddles.
I took him back to a walk and began working on getting him moving away from my leg. As usual, he was more responsive to the left leg but completely ignored my right leg. Ignored it to the point that he moved into my right leg instead of away from it. We tried some leg yields along the wall, and to the right got a lot of head twisting and jaw setting. To the left was much more relaxed. Then it progressed to as soon as we would change directions of bend and go to the right, he would set his jaw and poll. It just kept getting worse and worse. I tried to remember to keep my left hand low and close to my body, I tried to keep weight to in my left stirrup. I tried to keep my shoulders bent to the circle. I tried letting go of the reins when he pulled and twisted, and that didn't work either, he just took the rein and pulled more.
At a loss, and getting ever more frustrated, I stopped and did some Clinton Anderson-style bends to the left and right. It took him a while to get what he was supposed to do, and he was very resistant. After several bends, we walked on, and as soon as he stiffened up, we went back to bending. We probably did this half a dozen times, but as soon as I picked up the reins and asked for a bend right with my right leg, he would stiffen and pull.
I'm afraid I ended up dropping my stirrup and getting after him with both leg and whip. I really MADE him move off my leg, sideways. He got a few swats on the butt with my dressage whip too, and I kicked his ribs in once or twice. We repeated this to the other side to make sure he was actually going off both legs, and finally, I felt like when I applied a bit of leg, he moved away from it into my outside rein. I had done this sort of thing before, with Red, when he was being very resistant to the leg. But in this case, I feel like I lost my position, my relaxation, and everything, and really went for the brute force method of making it happen.
I really don't know if I did the right thing, and I sure am not proud of it. However, after we went through that nastiness, we had the loveliest canter we've ever had. Saga was very light and sat down and was nicely collected in both directions (better to the right than to the left). The canter was actually an accident, since we were trotting along and as I pushed him over with my leg, he thought I meant canter, but I went with it because it was a very nice transition. We even did some 15 meter eggs and a few shallow serpentines down the long side, both directions. He was very balanced, more so than ever before. I gave him a walk break after that, and then we did a bit of sitting trot, where he was very nice and balanced, moved away from my leg and deep into the corners, and was just lovely. We only trotted for perhaps 3 minutes, but it was good work.
We ended the ride by going out in the pasture with some friends (all the horses were in tonight due to an impending thunderstorm) and having a nice trot and canter both directions. There are some teeny hillocks in the pasture, so we took advantage of the uneven terrain. Saga stayed light and mostly balanced, and really came back to me when I asked. It was a great end to our ride.
As I think about why the ride went so poorly to begin with, I think there are a couple of reasons:
- I was riding in the AP, which as we have discussed, does NOT fit him. After yesterday's freedom in the County Eventer, it was a shock to feel him in the AP. I need to put the right gullet in the dressage saddle so at least I can use that.
- I was using the loose ring French link snaffle because I forgot to change back to the eggbutt. At 5.5 inches, the loose ring is too small for him (this is odd given that his eggbutt is also 5.5 inches, and fits just fine). I changed the bit back after my ride, so we won't have that problem again.
- My position was crap. I KNOW I have to be blocking him from doing some of the things I'm asking for, especially laterals. However, without someone to talk me through things, I'm having a hard time remembering all the body parts and what they're suppsed to be doing. Correct position during a lateral just isn't second nature to me yet.
As an apology, I tossed Saga a flake of alfalfa when I tucked him in, since he's stuck in his stall tonight. The one thing I don't like about our barn is that they don't give the horses much hay when they're in due to inclement weather, so I'm trying to supplement while we're working on getting weight back on him.
Hopefully I can keep things together for our ride tomorrow night and it will be better.