Saturday, October 31, 2009

Rating Report, Fitness Thoughts, etc

Okay. So here's the rating report, complete with lots of pictures!

After waking up at 4:45 and hitting the road with trailer in tow by 6:30 and the rally briefing up in Turner at 8:30, it was time to get ready for formal inspection.
To be perfectly honest, I probably put more effort into my first rally cleaning than I did this inspection. I cleaned my tack very well, but I didn't get at all the nooks and crannies with a toothbrush, so there was a bit of dust in the hard-to-reach parts of my saddle, which don't really see the light of day (or a tack-cleaning sponge). This was frowned upon, the only negative remark I got in my formal inspection, so next time a toothbrush and so forth.
But, the horse was clean and the wrap was great.

My group as we prepared to begin flatwork. Notice Pandora standing half-asleep. She was very quiet and obedient all morning, just a little tense and unwilling to work it out. Reminds me of how she was at Lily Glen sometimes - not bad, just not quite happy and relaxed. Still, she behaved herself very well. Examiners wanted more bend, but this is an ongoing issue as you all know. Something to work very hard on before my next rating, though I'd work on it anyway because that's what dressage is for.

(Speaking of dressage, I plan to call a local trainer sometime this week or next week to set up a lesson. Her barn is not too far from our boarding barn and I've heard good things about her, and MAN is it time for us to get some lessons.)

After a break for lunch, it was time for jumping. Pandora warmed up very nicely, calm and forward and controllable. The examiner had me shift my saddle forward a little, because she said I was setting it a little far back. I then shortened my stirrups.
When I got in the saddle, it felt like a dream, but I suspect this is because of shorter stirrups because I love love love the feel of my saddle when my stirrups are jumping length. It feels like I'm glued in, only in a flexible sort of way. So secure, just not the giant-knee-rolls-and-thigh-blocks type.

Jumping! Pandora was very very good, didn't try to rush the grid or anything. Things started out a little sketchy for two very likely reasons: 1. Pandora jumps rather poorly over tiny fences like the little X-rail we started with in the grid, and 2. We hadn't jumped with any regularity for quite awhile.
I didn't realize it until after the rating, but I really do need to jump more consistently. It's not that we can't do what the rating asks us to do, it's just...when you haven't jumped a lot lately, it takes awhile to settle into the groove, and at my next rating level I won't HAVE time to do silly things like weird releases and rounding my back for a few minutes until I get things straightened out.
She is FUN to ride on course. Fun fun fun. Forward and cruising but controllable, and if I ride her right, she waits to the fence. (This 'wait and not run through my hands' is what we don't have 100% of the time on XC. Thankfully we have all winter to work on dressage and stadium jumping, and if all that strengthening and suppling and gymnasticizing and obedience-ing doesn't help by the time XC schooling rolls around in the spring, THEN we will consider a slightly stronger bit or maybe a kineton. At this point I think it is a horse/rider/training issue, not a bitting one, but we'll see.)

Then straight from stadium work to a lovely splosh through the water to the XC course.

Pandora was very Up. I don't know what it is about this XC course, because it seems to be worse here than other places, but she gets Very Excited in a way that she doesn't usually. Not trying to bolt or anything, but that comforting sense of "I know if I give a subtle half-halt I'll get a response" usually goes away.

Mom didn't really get any XC pictures, so here's one my buddy took from the clinic two weeks before the rating. Same course, same horse, same rider.

Happy rider, tired horse after passing the rating :-)

XC is probably our weakest phase right now. She GOES, and she JUMPS, and she's not quite uncontrollable, but we have some serious work to do. She REALLY wants to run through my half-halts and jump terribly flat and awful to the fence. She really doesn't want to listen to me, and steering goes out the window in a way I don't remember it doing before. As in, she'll essentially totally ignore one rein and leg and drift like mad and not bend.

The rushing is what drives me nuts. I do not want my horse to rush to fences, at all, ever. I would rather start with too much forward than not enough, but still, this is very frustrating to me.

I thought we got this mostly killed when I went to the Brian Sabo clinic in September, but apparently not. I even tried his 'forward-back-forward-back' solution after fences, both at the clinic and at the rating, and it didn't seem to do any good. Pandora seems very tense about the whole thing, unwilling to relax and trust me to get us through it, but she's not unwilling to jump.

So here's my plan: over the winter, like I said, we'll work hard on dressage and stadium. This has several benefits. As dressage improves, jumping usually does too, because dressage works on all those awesome things like self-carriage (a DEFINITE must for Pandora to jump even halfway decently, and something she stops doing when she rushes like a madwoman), communication, responses to subtle aids, etc. And the stadium practice will give us, well, jumping practice. Jumping bigger, more complex courses with a forward controlled pace should continue to improve her jumping technique, her understanding of jumping while carrying herself, and waiting for the fence (as well as improve my riding to fences).

THEN, once the weather takes a turn for the better, we'll spend a LOT of time schooling XC fences. We'll trot fences, we'll canter fences, we'll always be calm and relaxed and I will work on waiting for the fence and making her carry herself all the way. I really think she just needs more XC miles to ease her anxiety. I'll take some lessons, maybe get over to Inavale to take a few lessons from Brooke.

Then if we are still having rushing issues, I'll start considering either a kineton ("puller" noseband that transfers some pressure to the nose from the bit) or a slightly stronger bit. The kineton would be a nice option because it's no harsher on her mouth, and I've heard some success stories.

Here's my view on bitting up: I would really prefer my horses went in a snaffle for everything. She's a sensitive horse and a snaffle is plenty of bit for stadium so far. But - I am NOT opposed to bitting up a little. When I did gaming in OHSET with McKinna, I faced the same dilemma. She went in a D-ring french link snaffle, and for the most part she was fine, but I didn't have the control I needed. She'd tune me out, so to get her attention I had to really floss her teeth, which she hated so she'd throw her head and get angry.

I bought a very mild curb and the problem was gone. She knew the bit was there. If she tried to blow through my hands, I had more than enough power to convince her otherwise, especially compared to the snaffle. I didn't have to get rough with her face, and she didn't throw her head, but she respected that bit. I did probably 99% of my riding on very, very loose reins. I could sit up and say "whoa" and barely touch the reins and she'd stop.


If it comes to it, I will see if the psychological power of a stronger bit helps. I suspect I won't even need to go there after a whole winter of hard work. And if I do, I bet I can use it to get the point across (yes you WILL carry yourself all the way to the fence and yes you WILL wait for the fence and NO you will not completely ignore my half-halts), then return to the snaffle.

Anyway. Random thoughts there...

On another note, after that fairly disastrous clinic a few weeks ago, I decided I really need to be more fit for this. Part of the reason the clinic was so frustrating for me was that after 30 minutes of sitting trot/canter with no stirrups, I COULDN'T RIDE anymore. I was shot. I was falling into bad habits, leaning on Pandora's neck in two-point. In the second riding session, XC, everything was awful because my horse was tired and I was tired and she was jumping very poorly because neither of us could hold the other up. She was rushing because she wasn't in self-carriage and I couldn't stop her and it just...sucked. (I had also been sick the whole week before, which may have contributed to the whole worn-out thing.)

Under most circumstances I won't work that hard. But it at least got me thinking about rider fitness, and how I really should be more fit. I do need to build up more self-discipline in terms of spending time in two-point and riding without stirrups (ugh, so hard when there's not an instructor making you do it!), but I also need more cardiovascular fitness. So I started running.

It's not that exciting. Twice a week, after I get to campus but before I go to class. Tuesdays I go to the rec center and run on a treadmill, Fridays I run up and down 4 flights of stairs in the building where I work. I figure I'll work up to more - I practically have to, my mom runs all the time and has done half-marathons, so I'm pretty pathetic compared to her - but it's a good start and it's maintainable. Soon I'll throw in some strength training too. I'm making my horse work hard, so I better be fit too!

I may take a PE class at school this spring. There's all kinds of cool ones. I'm wavering between Yoga, which is relaxing and a hard workout all at once, and some kind of martial art because how cool is it that I can go to class at school and learn to fight? Neat neat neat.

This has been a bit of a long and rambling post, but ye gods, I don't have any riding things to write about! I've ridden twice since the rating but both times only at the walk because her shoes were pulled and she's touchy at the trot. We've been working hard on lateral work, but nothing I haven't talked about before.

She is seriously looking the best I've ever seen her. Her spine BARELY protrudes from her back any more. Her butt is getting round. She's shiny. I love it. The flake of alfalfa we've added has made a huge difference.

Okay. Off to study some more biochemistry if I can talk myself into it, then bedtime. I am so lame for a college student, bed before 10 on a Saturday (on Halloween Saturday, and also "Ducks Just Beat USC By 27 Points And We're #1 In The Pac Ten" night), but you know me.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Preliminary Pictures...

Sorry guys - busy week. OChem midterm, another Biochem midterm in three days. But I haven't forgotten about you.

I have hardly ridden all week, either - but Pandora got a trace clip and her shoes pulled for the winter. If she does well with them off, I might just leave them off. The other option of course is just all the way the other direction, because if she can't maintain traction on our awful wet muddy ground during Spring events, I might just shoe all four so we can stud behind. But ugh, that would suck. Prefer barefoot.

Rode last night and she was a bit touchy at the trot but walk was fine, so we did lots of lateral work.

I think all the work I've done getting her haunches OFF my right leg - because she swings her haunches out to the right - has been a little one-sided. All of that work puts her squarely onto my outside (left) rein, but I haven't done as much work pushing her over from the LEFT leg, because she does that too much already.


I realized last night that she really, really just doesn't have a connection with my right rein when it's the outside rein. Pretty much ever. Which is probably a huge contributor to why we have left bend issues, along with all the haunch-swinging etc. So the seesaw swings back in the other direction, as always, and now I'm going to make sure I'm doing a balance of lateral work on both sides, not just the side I need to correct things on.

So, full post later etc - I really probably WILL get it done tonight - but here are some pictures to satisfy your appetite just a little.

Here I am waiting for my formal inspection, with Pandora none too thrilled about the wait. That's my standing wrap on her leg there. It passed the first time :-)

A nice easy walk before flatwork starts.

As a side note, my goodness she is FUZZY in these pictures! She got a trace clip earlier this week. It, um, isn't terrible for my first real clip also considering my clippers aren't really meant for body clipping.

Mom and I got a great comparison conformation shot to the one we took almost exactly a year ago. The differences are still subtle, but you can really tell, especially if you click on them and look at them full size. Her topline in general is smoother, the base of her neck more muscled. She's not standing up as well in the current one, but oh well.

Again, here's the shot from last year:

And here's the one from this week.

And to think that's the GOOD side of the clip...oh well, it keeps her cool, what more can I ask?

Saturday, October 24, 2009


I passed!

I had a GREAT time. The whole thing was just a very positive experience, and everything went very smoothly. Our club had a 100% pass rate today with the three members we sent, too!

Due to some last-minute lameness with a to-be-borrowed horse, a fellow member taking her C-2 ended up borrowing Pandora for a longeing and trailer-loading section of her test. Well, sure, Pandora longes...and loads and unloads....mostly pretty well....for me.

But, thankfully, she was on her best behavior and did great for the other girl. She got an Exceeds Standards on her longeing ;-)

Don't worry - I have LOTS of pictures and will get them up along with a full report ASAP. I'm so happy to finally be a C-level member! Next stop, C-2 in the summer?? We'll see.

Thanks for all the well-wishes. Maybe the collective positive thought gave us some good juju today!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Picture Time!

Well - the rating was moved to next weekend for fear of inclement weather. We'll keep our fingers crossed that it doesn't get nasty next weekend too.

I had a great ride last night. I spent 45 minutes working in the arena. The first 15 minutes or so, we just walked. I have really begun to understand how important warming up is to Pandora. When I first get on, she just doesn't feel ready to work. She'll walk at a good pace if I make her, she'll bend if I make her, but today I just did what felt right. We walked on light contact on big, loopy circles, and gradually we started doing more things, more lateral work, more contact. By the time 15 minutes had gone by I was getting smooth, flowing, energetic walk work. Huh.

We also got some very nice trot and canter work. Her canter is really coming along and I'm seeing a benefit from making an effort to spend more time in the canter. Lots of adjustments: go forward, come back and hold it, circle, light counterflexion (as in stop leaning on my outside rein, please!), very shallow serpentines, and the like. She's definitely building more strength.

After the schooling session, Mom and I headed for a hack up and down the quiet driveway. The weather was beautiful - actually warm in the sunshine. I grabbed some apples from a horse-accessible tree and I can say with perfect honesty that they were the sweetest, juiciest apples I've ever had. The horses enjoyed their little bites too. We took a quick detour into the empty pasture to ride through the fun big ditch, then headed back up the Hill and then to the barn.

Pandora is getting a strip clip today. She's sweating too much with all that fur, and while she dries off nicely, I know it will only get worse. Still, she is looking just fantastic. The flake of alfalfa-orchard we've added to her dinner has made a big difference in her condition and she is building up more muscle. Both the girls seem so happy and cheerful every time we're out - they came up and said hi and were willing to come in from the pasture this morning, and they were just as willing to go out when we put them back outside after our ride.

You guys should see the way Pandora and McKinna interact. It's really cute. There's two other mares in their little "herd," and Pandora is the Boss Mare. McKinna gets to be Almost Bossy since she's buddies with Pandora. Case in point: Today we turned them loose and Pandora walked straight to the water trough, as usual. When released, McKinna took off to get to the water trough first, got in about a half-second of sipping, then Pandora glared at her and made her wait until SHE was done. All the while, Pandora glared at the other mares too. When she was done, she stood there for a minute - as if to remind everyone that if she wanted, she could keep them all away - then wandered away and let McKinna drink. (This from a mare who, when we first put her out with a herd, would go away if anyone looked at her sideways.)

Anyway, I've taken a lot of pictures with my cell phone that I haven't uploaded, so here's a big ol' bunch of them.

Fist, some comparisons:

Pandora in some of the earlier days of our ownership

Another early shot: conformation, last November

Conformation shot last week

Maybe the difference isn't as striking as I think it is, but the biggest thing I notice is her topline! Look at the difference in the base of her neck. And, uh, a way-better fitting halter, that blue one didn't fit too well.
Obviously this latest one is not the best picture, but she was not feeling like standing up politely for me and I didn't have anyone out there to help me.

The lovely standing wrap I did the other day in preparation for my rating!

I had learned to start towards the top of the middle, then wrap up, then down, then back up to middle to finish. I was reading through my PC manual and discovered that they show your wrap starting middle, going down then up then back to middle. So I tried it, and my wraps have never been nicer. Don't know if it's a coincidence, but I'm sticking with it.

The view from the saddle on a beautiful evening last month. This is the field that I went galloping in - I am at the top of a very nice gradual hill.

McKinna getting her teeth done! I love my vet. Also, McKinna is pathetic when she's sedated.

From this summer when we got THE FLY BONNET. I love that thing.

Actually, it does have a use. Pandora really hates flies. If she's all sweaty and they're buzzing around her ears, no matter how much fly spray or SWAT I have, she's still shaking her head and being grumpy. With the fly bonnet, it's a lot less.

Remember this?

Don't panic, that's not on her right now! This is a picture of the big old swelling she developed on the front of her gaskin after the Blanket Incident in the last week of March. I had forgotten how big and ugly it was! It took awhile to go down but it is gone now.

So there you have it. This week, yet again, I will be preparing for the rating...I am glad to have the extra week to clean my tack and study up, though, so you won't catch me complaining.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Clinic Thoughts, etc

Hi guys - as you are probably used to by now, it takes me a few days to digest everything from the clinic before I can make comprehensible posts out of it. This one is no exception.

Parts of my ride were extremely frustrating, and it takes me some time to let it go and be able to write about it without whining. Parts of my ride were very good and enlightening, and it takes me some time to figure out why. So bear with me!

Here's a quick summary: that particular clinician works us extremely hard. In most clinics, there are natural breaks where everyone watches someone else jump, or you stop for instruction. Not in hers. You keep going constantly. We did sitting trot and canter without stirrups (in jumping saddles, mind) for literally 30 minutes straight. On XC, she had us jumping down a very long line of 3 to 4 fences, then galloping forward and collecting back on the whole way back to the start, then jumping again without pause.

It was definitely good for me. It was eye-opening, and it showed me that I should push myself more.

I had also been sick the whole week before and it was just too much. So. Like I said, I just need some time to digest everything, relax, get some perspective. I did get some very valuable things out of it and I'm already working hard to put them into practice.

For example, last night's ride on Pandora (which was overall an excellent ride) was probably the first time I've ever gotten a balanced, strong canter all the way down the long side (sitting) without her asking if she could lean on my hands or fall on the forehand. I know the feeling of that canter now, and I got it from an exercise we did at the clinic. I also practiced my sitting trot without stirrups!

Anyway - full clinic report soon, complete with pictures and video. My buddy from PC took some great pictures of our XC ride, and I'm looking forward to putting them up. My dad also took some pictures, and he has uncanny timing for getting a shot where we're doing something stupid.

I also rode McKinna on Monday, while giving Pandora a very well-deserved day off. I love riding McKinna! She is where it all started, and she is such an awesome horse. It helps that her problems tend to be very opposite from Pandora's - I have worked so, so hard on lateral strengthening with Pandora, and I hopped on McKinna and was able to do much of the very same work it has taken me weeks to develop on Pandora. But, Pandora never ever has a problem stretching into my contact and finding a rhythm at the walk and trot, and McKinna is naturally fairly high-headed. Pandora has a much stronger canter than McKinna at this point, simply because I don't school McKinna's as often.

It is always a refreshing change of pace. The nice thing is, if I maintain both of them at a good level, I get to choose which one to take to different things! For example, the show-jumping rally for Pony Club is going to be in April. McKinna is an extremely tight, catty jumper and very fast. Pandora has a stronger canter and a longer stride and more balanced turns. Each has advantages and I get to work on them both! How exciting is it to have two such capable, athletic horses?

My C1 rating for PC is on Saturday. It should be fun, and I'm looking forward to getting to show my knowledge. I practiced my standing wraps last night and I got a very nice one, so I'm feeling optimistic about that requirement.

Finally, it is time to clip Pandora. She got ridiculously sweaty at the clinic (possibly understandable, since we worked our tails off) but she also got pretty sweaty from a moderate 45-minute ride last night in reasonable temperatures. She wasn't tired, just sweaty. I'm going to do a little strip clip tonight so she's clipped for the rating this weekend, but I'll probably go to a full trace before long. I hope our sad little clippers can handle it - we might need to buy a new pair!

I have lots of pictures from last night; I was taking conformation shots and analyzing her legs since leg conformation is part of my test. She is actually pretty good, though I think she is a little over at the knee. Forelegs are my weak spot, so I'm not sure!

I will put last night's pictures up tonight when I get home from the barn.

Friday, October 9, 2009


Does anyone out there ride to music?

I've seen some dressage musical freestyles, and I would LOVE to try one sometime. There's, um, only a limited amount you can do at my level - you basically get three tempos! - but at the upper levels it's amazing. If you have never seen the famous freestyle from Blue Hors Matine ridden by Andreas Helgstrand, do yourself a favor and go watch it.

On the other hand, I watched a fellow member of my pony club practicing her Training-level musical freestyle on her big warmblood mare, and it was so cool. You don't have to ride at a super high level to be able to put some really good music to your ride - the girl in my club did a freestyle to music from the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack, and it was awesome. So every once in awhile I go through all my music and think, "Hmm, this would be fun to work into a freestyle...Ooh, and this one too..." But, I've never actually gotten around to doing it.

Sometime in the next few weeks I'm going to bring my mp3 player to the barn and try riding to some of those songs so I can get a sense for what Pandora's tempo is at each gait. Then, who knows - maybe I will put together a simple little freestyle, just for fun! I think it would be enjoyable. Not to mention that extra help with a solid rhythm can never hurt.

I imagine it's quite hard to balance choosing songs that you like and songs that would work well for a freestyle. If you watch the video I linked to, there was a medley of several different songs, none with vocals. I've done similar performances at the band leadership camp I attend every summer - only it's called a specialty, and it's done with conducting, marching, or flagwork. Each year I do a partner specialty with the girl who was my co-drum major, and it's a lot of fun. So far we've done them to AC/DC's "Dirty Deeds," the Prince Ali song from Aladdin, and Bonnie Tyler's "Holding Out for a Hero." I think the Aladdin one was my favorite, as we worked in a lot of funny things.

Words work well for that, since you need some material to act out while working in conducting at the same time. You can't exactly act things out with a horse, though, so maybe it would be better to do a song without lyrics.

There's an instrumental song I love - I think it's the theme from Boondock Saints - but it's rather distinctly Irish and would be definitely more suited to someone riding an Irish Draught or Irish Sport Horse.

Anyway, I'll let you know once I figure out some tempos and good songs to use.

Anyone else ride to music, for performance or just for fun while you're schooling? Do you find it helps you settle into a rhythm? Has anyone performed a musical freestyle before?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Mea Culpa

Hi guys - I'd like to clear the air a bit regarding the comment I wrote in my last post about western riders.

I intended it to be light-hearted and teasing, but it didn't quite come out that way.

I apologize if I offended anyone.

I understand that what I meant in good fun may be construed as me saying that I don't respect western riders, or that I'm a great western rider. This is not the case, and I am sorry that my poor choice of words could imply so.

I dislike condescending riding stereotypes as much as the next person, and I will be much more careful in the future about what I write.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


After a really, really nice ride last night, I took Pandora out to meet the barn owner's cows. And they are Cows, of the rather large sort, big and red and white. I rode into their big field and took her out to say hi to a little youngster first.

It was cute.

They both stopped and stared at each other. Then the cow jumped, and she jumped. Then they both stared at each other some more.

After that, Pandora was pretty relaxed. Curious, interested, but not scared. We pushed the little one back over to the momma cows, and it ran away, but kept turning back to look at us when we turned away. We went and said hi to the BIG cows, which all went fine, even when one went running past us. So we called it a day and headed in.

No big deal, good fun. I've decided that I'd like to take Pandora to some team penning practices this winter. I had a great time when I did it with McKinna when I was on the high school equestrian team, and I think it would be a fun change of pace. Pandora doesn't really neck rein or do rollbacks or anything, but she steers and stops and goes, which is good enough for me! Don't worry, I promise I'll get pictures. Everyone will laugh at me - I sold my western saddle a year or two ago, so I'd be team penning in my dressage saddle ;-) Still, I can be comfortable working cows...I wonder if the western riders would feel the same if I stuck them on an eventer in a jumping saddle? Kidding. Mostly.

Tonight I finally got the video from the Brian Sabo clinic! It's quite good - you can hear almost all of his comments. I'll see what I can do about taking some good chunks of it and putting it up here.

I haven't ridden as much as normal in the last week or so. First my grandparents were here visiting....then it was the first week of classes, and it does take awhile to adjust....then in the past few days I've been sick with a cold, so I took one day off, had an awesome ride last night, then went with my mom to her lesson tonight to watch her ride. So Pandora's had more days off than I prefer, but she's doing well and I'm sure she doesn't mind spending all day chilling out in the pasture.

Pandora is looking fantastic. Between the extra hay (she's eating 4 flakes of orchard/timothy twice a day, and they're big flakes!) and the flake of alfalfa we've added to her dinner, she's gained some weight and is filling out along her topline more. Her winter coat has started to grow in and she is officially dark bay, a very sudden change from the red bay that she is in the summer. McKinna, too, is growing hairier by the day. She's wonderfully soft in the winter - at our OHSET practices in the winter, all my equestrian team friends used to exclaim about how soft her neck was.

Oh, and I tried that turn-on-the-forehand around a circle thing the other day. Like I suspected, she was much better at it. Not perfect, but better, more responsive, and - most importantly - she showed a better understanding of what I wanted. Good things all around!

I have a clinic this Sunday up in Turner at the same location where my rating is the following week. I am feeling pretty good about it. I haven't jumped much since the clinic in Redmond, but eh. I don't think it's a big deal. I'll probably canter some ground poles tomorrow, and then we'll see how she does this weekend. I have a feeling I won't really need to school any fences before the rating. They only go up to 2'9 anyway.

Sorry for the infrequent updates. Hopefully as I settle into the school routine again, I can keep up a little better!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Tangible Progress

I love it when you can feel that you and your horse are making progress.

The other day I was riding - and I didn't feel much like riding for long, which is usually true after a school day - and I got to have one of those rare, "HOLY COW I CAN FEEL THE IMPROVEMENT" moments. (I ended up riding for longer.)

You know all the lateral work I've been doing? Maybe not. I've been working my (and consequently Pandora's) butt off. Slowly but surely, I've refined my control. Lots of turn on the forehand, both still and in motion. Turn on the haunches. A slowly growing understanding that inside leg back behind the girth plus a restraining outside rein/leg means move just the haunches over. Leg yields, back and forth and all over the place. Overbending, counterbending, regular bending. Spiraling in and out on circles. Transitions on a circle holding the correct bend firmly in place.

Lots of work.

But I have been so, so rewarded for it. Maybe I learn to pay more attention as I spend more time training Pandora and recording it in her training log - maybe it's just that it's the first time in a long time I have put in a concentrated dressage effort on one particular issue. Either way, I've been noticing true improvement, and this week I got a big one.

My leg yields have finally started to go through her back.

It doesn't sound big. But I never noticed just how much she was resisting me in her back and hips until she stopped resisting so much. Everything swings freely, or at least more freely than before. Her hind leg is actually crossing over, her body's remaining aligned (no diving on the outside shoulder), and she's not resisting with her neck either. It feels good.

Even at the trot, she is starting to let go. It's harder for her - she wants to speed up when I make her take big enough steps with that inside hind - but she is starting to get it. Give me another week or two and we'll have swingy, relaxed trot leg-yields too.

I know leg-yields are nowhere near the be-all and end-all of lateral work. They're not. But both the psychological and physical progress I can make with them is extremely valuable. She's learning to be more supple through her hips and back. She's learning that there are specific requests coming from my leg - sometimes I want the haunches over, sometimes the whole body, sometimes the shoulders.

I can move her haunches over with a very light cue now - another thing I have never had before.

It's so nice when you can tell, really tell, in an objective, measurable sense, that you're making progress.

To further test this, I'm going to try the "turn on the forehand in motion" exercise I mentioned very briefly in this post that caused the two of us so much frustration the night I tried it. She could not - or would not - do it. At all.

I bet that when I try it tonight, she'll be successful. I bet you that in the one month since we tried the exercise, we've made enough physical and mental progress to change her response.

I'm curious to find out. If she can do it, I will have an even stronger confirmation that we are on the right track.
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