I'm so, so lucky to have wonderful Seneca to ride right now. He is not a stoic beast, so he'll definitely tell me when I've got it wrong (M said that eventually, I'll be like, "M! Make him stop rearing!" and she'll be all, "I can't! Just wait til he's done and then I'll get on him!" But let's hope that day is far from now).
Today, though, we got a lot of things right. The shoulder-in just clicked. I didn't know a month ago that I cared about shoulder-in, and now I really really do. I think there are two reasons for that: I'm proud to ride Seneca and want to ride him well, and I adore M. She could be teaching me to run barrels (no shade, barrel racers) and I would be eating it up with a spoon. She's a fantastic teacher. Anyway, today I felt how much I don't need my inside rein to shoulder-in, and how using the outside rein changes the angle. Last time I didn't feel that; mostly I felt my brain melting out my ears.
We also finally got the show-ring trot that he's capable of, where he bubbles up in front of me. It's such a cool feeling, and it made me realize that I have rarely had him 100% in front of my leg. I mean, I kind of knew that. I was leery of putting my leg on for the first few rides, but he doesn't seem to mind correct and tactful leg (just that damn right rein half-halt). He HAS to be trotting forward all the time, and in a frame. I asked M about long and low trot work with him, and this is what she said: "He's an FEI dressage horse. He has his silver medal. Sometimes we let him stretch his back inside the contact, but he should be on the bit. If you let him stretch he will lean on you." She talked about how some babies do need to stretch down and do long and low stuff, but that it is a phase and not an all-the-time thing, and that she maybe does it once a week. This is something that people have a lot of opinions on, for sure. But it seems like her idea is to treat each horse as an individual and do the exercises THAT horse needs to excel. Makes sense to me, you know?
Anyway, we struggled in a couple places today, too. Well, I did. Seneca did not. Most of it comes back to having him in front of my leg. Our trot-walk transitions aren't as clean as I'd like. And why? Because I'm not getting his hind legs under the girth enough, and I'm not holding the half halt through the transition. Furthermore, I'm riding it too much. I just have to think "hind legs under girth; now walk" instead of using my outside rein (and risking him standing up). It should be easier to think it than ride it, right? Not for this kid, apparently.
Mary's big takeaway point for me today is something I think applies to all of us, regardless of discipline: we need to ride the horse inside the skill. In other words, I can't just be like, "walk now" and have him do the transition. He has to be round and in front of my leg in the transition. The shoulder-in is no good if he's pokey and above the bridle. When does this not apply, you know? It's no good to point the horse at the jump and go there if the horse isn't in a good rhythm, happy in the contact, etc. I get this when jumping because I've had a lot of good jumping instruction, but there is SO much new stuff to think about in these dressage lessons that it's easy to let the basics go. Which means I need to practice them more, so they are always there! It's a good thing M has basically given me Seneca to ride until I get sick of him (won't happen, tho M might need to tune him up now and then). I'm the luckiest weirdo this side of the Blue Ridge.
I totally miss jumping, and I help with jumping lessons almost every day, which just makes me miss it more. But in the meantime, I'm having fun with dressage and it will definitely help me when M and I get Miss Lexi back in the ring.