So tonight as I was driving out to the barn for my lesson, I saw one of those big neon bank signs - you know, the ones with the time and temperature? - and it read 58 degrees. Brrr! I had to pull out my polarfleece breeches and dust off my sweatshirt to go ride tonight.
Saga was, of course, a raving nutcase. Between being in his stall for 2 days due to the rain and it being 58 degrees, he was READY TO GO. I decided to do some hand walking to get a few boogers out of his system, but the hand walking only seemed to make him worse. So I groomed him and tacked him, then went and hopped on him to walk him around before the lesson. Fortunately I had about 30 minutes, because I needed every second of it!
We started off with lots of head-tossing at the walk. I shortened up my reins since giving him long reins was only allowing him to be naughty, and we walked for a bit, throwing in a 10 meter circle every now and again to give him something to think about other than the fact that he had a lot of pent-up energy and nothing to do with it. We trotted around some as well, accompanied by more head tossing and a teeny hop or two... just enough for him to prove that if he really wanted to be naughty, he could. I growled at him a lot and eventually he settled down. When I finally got to the point where I could let him have a long rein and not worry about him being a moron, I walked him on the long rein for about 10 minutes while FuzzyPony finished up her lesson.
When my lesson started, we did only had done a few trot circles to the left and right when Joan said, "OK, let's do your test." At which point I confessed that I had not even bothered to look at either of the tests I signed up for this weekend (hey, you're allowed readers, and I'm a quick study... yeah, that's my excuse!) She gave me the quick overview, and we managed to fumble our way through the test pretty decently. He wasn't super straight on the free walk across the diagonal, but Joan said he did have good overstride, and when we picked up the reins to go back to medium walk and then to trot, he got a little upside-down and then I had trouble with the right bend until the circle, where I really got it back. The left lead canter depart was, not surprisingly, sticky, but it was in a dark corner of the arena and Joan said it didn't look too bad. She said that our centerlines were super straight, the halts were square (no swinging his haunches left!) and our circles were round and had nice bend. She told me that the test would probably have been around a 70% at a schooling show.
No shit. A 70%.
After I pointed out all the flaws that she didn't see (like the crummy canter transition), she said maybe high 60s, but still, a nice test. I was pretty floored. This from my horse that couldn't even come round when I got him in May. Dang.
We schooled some canter transitions because they were the worst part of the test, but even after doing 5 or 6 of them to the left I didn't feel like they got much better. He just doesn't lift his shoulders into the transitions like he sometimes does to the right (i.e. like he's supposed to). Part of this I know is that my right leg doesn't ask as well since my heel comes up, and I also tend to throw my body more forward on the left transitions instead of asking him to come up. I really, really need to make an effort to ride those transitions better and not lose my position, or else he's never going to get any better at it.
We then proceeded to do Training 2. In some ways that went more smoothly but he was starting to get tired of this riding thing and wanted me to hold him up. I gave myself more time to get to the medium walk and then the trot after the freewalk by starting to pick up the reins on the quarterline and then asking for really deep bend in the subsequent corner, and it went beautifully. On Tr2 the second canter circle is immediately followed by turning right down center line, and I made the transition right after we hit the letter so that I would have the maximum amount of time to balance him for the centerline turn. So I feel like I rode the test pretty smart, even though Saga was heavier on his forehand (especially in the left lead canter) and somewhat less willing in general. However, it was another good test and I felt pretty good about it. Now, if we can just pull that off on Sunday!
We finished up the lesson with some leg yield attempts. I had a major ah-hah moment when Joan told me to point his nose where I wanted him to go, but keep his body bent to the inside. I've always ridden leg yields with the nose to the inside, so this was completely new. And what do you know, suddenly we were actually doing nice leg yields! Not a ton of crossover yet, but he was getting the idea. He still needs to move better off my leg, but at least we got some good, correct steps in the right direction. And at the trot too!
So, another fabulous lesson. I really feel like Joan is helping us make tons of progress. Now, if only I could ride more in between my lessons, it would be so much better. Alas, I can only do so much, but hopefully I can get in a few more rides before the show Sunday. T minus 4 days and counting!