Week 2 of the Challenge was indeed a challenge. I had a crazy busy work week and didn't ride nearly as much as I wanted to, but where we lacked in quantity, we made up in quality. Betty is such a willing partner; it challenges me to be the best, most effective rider I can be so that we don't waste a moment.
Tuesday: Started off the ride in the best way possible when Betty stood like a statue for me to hop on. We warmed up with circles working on stretching her neck long and down first to the inside and then to the outside. When she was relaxed, I would lift the inside rein slightly and ask her to make her circles just a little bigger. This was our first time riding in the indoor arena in a while, and I was pleased that she felt much more forward and balanced. Our previous rides frequently had a sort of scrambling quality like she just didn't understand how to get traction, and at the same time she would always be trying to stop and then shoot forward. Not pleasant. Tonight was a whole different story; she felt solid and ready to concentrate on work instead of putting most of her attention into not falling down or running into a wall. We moved up to the trot and did some buttonholes and some pinwheels. She still struggles to the left, but had some really nice forward moving maneuvers with good crossover in front. I need to remember to feel whether or not she is balanced and ready to do the exercise rather than just throwing her into it when I get impatient. I really focused on how she responded to my leg, because I wanted to try something new. After our quick warmup, I knew she was ready. We ponied Norman! It was awesome. She really wanted to be worried about the whole situation, but, when she realized there was a job to do, she settled right down and got to work. I was really impressed. She had a few moments where she got really nervous, but she handled herself so well. I like the way she clinks the bit in her mouth three times after she does something scary. It's like her way of settling herself. My silly little mare.
Thursday: I ran Betty and Norman around together in the indoor arena. They really seem to enjoy their group exercise time, and it's so cute watch them together. I felt lucky to have enough time to groom her and shove some treats in her face.
Saturday: I had some of my students out for a lesson and it was way too nice not to ride a horse myself. Betty tolerated things pretty well and even did some nice work.
The weather was beautiful, and all the ponies were on their best behavior. We worked on pivots and on moving her hips around while walking forward. No fancy maneuvers, just asking her if she minds moving her big booty over a step or two. She still likes to be tense rather than relaxed, so this was a challenge for her, but she gave it an A+ effort.
Monday: We enjoyed another sunny ride outside. She was very soft at the walk. Her trot work was much more rhythmic without being lazy, and she's figuring out how to take horse size strides rather than choppy ones. Our pieces work (1,2,3) is getting smoother. She seemed to understand piece 3 better after Saturday's review of moving her hips around. I can feel her thinking about what I'm asking but not always getting the right answer. We did the windshield wiper exercise (stop, back, pivot, trot off, repeat) to help get her lifting her shoulders better in her backing as well as give her a reason to hustle around her turns. Loping we introduced the idea of the big fast and slow small circles that will be such an important part of her reining work. Our circles are getting rounder and more consistent, and, to the left, we even have two speeds, sometimes. To the right, she still needs to get coordinated to bend and slow down, but she's thinking along the right track. I've been struggling to figure out my seat on this mare, as I've always felt we are slightly out of sync. I think I finally got myself figured out during this ride. She is so small even a small change from me can really affect her. I know the actual change in my position is small, but it feels like I am leaning so far forward over her shoulders that she will fall on her face. Apparently, that's where I need to be so that she can get her back up and drive with her hind end, though. Strange as it may feel, I'm gonna work with it.
I'm really pleased with her progress this week, and I'm inspired to ride even better this week and see where we are by next Tuesday!