Ah, so we come to another piece of that lovely cyclical posting pattern shaped by the school year: finals.
It's dead week. I'm still making it out to ride (and it is wonderful!) but not nearly as much as I would like to. I have three finals (one hard, one moderate, one easy) and a creative portfolio (very hard) between me and three glorious weeks of relaxation. I am not feeling too sorry for myself yet, but ask me again this weekend...
Most of our work lately has been on the dressage front, and I am okay with that. As you may have guessed from the overload of happy squealing lately, McKinna and I have been having lots of fun working in the sand box! She seems to be really enjoying our rides, and she comes out ready and willing to get to work every time - always a good indicator for her, as she's usually pretty reluctant to come work if she is bored or needs a rest.
This week makes two weeks since I have ridden in a dressage lesson, but next week after finals are over I'll be back. In the meantime, I work on things at home, mostly at the walk and trot. We work on keeping an active walk but not too rushed, which involves light kick-kicks or taps of the whip when she gets lazy but not so much that she feels she has to fling herself forward into a fast walk. Lots of figure-8s and changing of the bend, working her into that outside rein, constantly asking myself, "Am I soft enough in my arm muscles? Am I relaxed and following with my elbows? I'm not bracing with my hips again, am I? Dang it, I am!"
It's the little, finicky, quiet work that sometimes gives me the most pleasure. I re-schooled a trot transition a few times on Sunday because she wanted to put her head up into the air or shuffle into it. I realized I was kind of tightening my thighs and hips to push her up into it, so the next time, I kept those soft as I gave the rest of the cue. Voila! Lovely transition. We got to play over some ground poles that day, and I think that kept things interesting for McKinna.
Another exciting thing about that ride was that I really began to feel some moments of good, stretchy walk and trot. All this work on being truly supple and soft with contact has improved our connection, so whether we're walking or trotting I can let the reins feed out and McKinna will actually take them down. Even better, she's starting to develop the ability to keep her back up while she does it. Cool feeling, when she's stretching into a long contact and lifting herself. Huzzah!
Ah, well. I enjoy the rides I have and she doesn't mind her time off. That is one thing McKinna is great about - time off just makes her even better! We do have a Pony Club clinic coming up soon, where I am hoping to get some solid feedback for what I need to work on in terms of jumping 3'3 courses - the required height for my next rating. Haven't had much of that yet.
Over winter break I plan to take a jumping lesson or two with Devin, which will be fun too. She is always very good at pushing us to a new level in a positive way, and she is totally willing to let me test out our limits a little bit. This will be good when working towards the C-3 rating! Fingers crossed that all the dressage work we have done this fall pays off when we get to those lessons. All indications point to yes, since at both the rating prep clinic and the clinic a couple weeks ago McKinna was awesome about her coursework, but I haven't had the chance to do any real height, so there's the test. If McKinna can comfortably and confidently clock around a solid 3' - 3'3 course, I will be feeling pretty good about our progress.
Even though I haven't been commenting much lately, I promise I have been reading. After next week I'll be my usual talkative self.
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