Wednesday: I hauled out and had an awesome lesson with Sabrina. It took Betty a while to settle in at the new place, but when she relaxed and started thinking we had some great work at the walk and trot. My focus on suppling her is paying off; we still need to work on consistently responding to my leg, but I think this is a problem of me not asking for things consistently more than her not getting it. When she get all settled and warmed up, we worked on circles asking her to step deeper under her body with her inside hind and lift her back. It felt good that Sabrina picked up on the thing that I have just been introducing, and lets me know I'm on the right track. I really miss taking weekly lessons; sometimes it's hard to know what to work on when you are by yourself all the time. I was excited to show Sabrina how much Betty's canter has improved, but, alas, it wasn't in the cards for this lesson. Betty was still a little distracted, and I think the smaller space and new footing were just too many difficult things to bring her best work. Oh well, I was still super proud of her, and we left with some really good exercises to work on. Starting by asking her to step up on a circle, then step her hips slightly out so that the inside crosses under and in front of the outside light, and then doing a half circle like that followed by a half circle of haunch turn.
Monday: We rode in the indoor arena and warmed up with circles, sidepass on the wall, and alternating between sidepass and forehand turns to help get her back and hips loosened up. Betty still likes to get quick with her feet, and these exercises encourage precision but not speed. Then we worked over some trot poles. At first she wanted to wiggle and squiggle over them, but after she figured out the spacing she came through much more straight. She stays very balanced and doesn't throw herself around, but I can tell we need to do more of these to build consistency in her trot. Working with poles always provides additional opportunities to mount and dismount when things get knocked out of place. Betty continues to be hit and miss with standing still, but she knows what I want and really tries to be good. We worked on the canter a little bit, but it was just not flowing like it did outside. Switched to working on rollbacks and we both had a lot more fun.
Monday night Betty also got some back shoes installed. After riding outside so much more in the beautiful weather, she was getting some uneven wear and cracking on her hind hooves. I'm also hoping this will help give her a little bit of extra traction to get the lope figured out. She still scrambles through turns, especially in the tighter space, and I think a little extra grip will help her get her balance figured out and help her feel more confident. I'm really hoping by the next cycle she will be ready for her first set of sliders.
Wednesday: I decided to rrde Betty while I taught my evening lesson. She was a pretty good demo horse and also tolerated my teaching and general silliness very well. I didn't dedicate much attention to her while I was teaching, but I appreciated how she just waited for me to give her a job and relaxed the rest of the time. At the end of the lesson I took a few minutes to move her around; we had nice trot work and her canter was amazing. She felt much more stable and able to slow her legs down through our turns instead of rushing and feeling like a motorcycle. Yay! I could get my legs long and balance her through the turns instead of just trying to stay with her. This was huge improvement from our last canter inside, and I'm so excited to feel like we finally have a place where we can start working on the canter. Introducued piece 5, backing in a circle, she tried hard, but I need to focus on getting her shoulders softer before I spend much time here. She has the idea now, and I was able to see that she's not quite ready yet.
Thursday: I only had a few minutes, so I decided, why not ride her bareback? In a halter! All of our work on standing still during mounting came in handy as I had to take a few attempts to jump on her back. Once I finally made my way aboard, she looked back and got a cookie, let out a big sigh, and wandered off like this is our usual routine. I love my little horse.
While I was initially hoping to finish this challenge by the end of May, I'm finding that I really like the slower pace I am taking with Betty. Ok, one ride a week was a little ridiculous, but we are one month in, and I've completed 11 rides. Betty is progressing really well in her training, and I don't want to push her too hard. Right now, she enjoys the work, but I also balance it with a lot of hanging out, grooming, and free time in the arena. I worry if I get too focused on under saddle stuff, she will lose her enthusiasm. We'll see how the next couple weeks go. I sent in my check for the Les Vogt clinic, and I definitely want to be ready for that. I just don't want to risk ruining this awesome horse that I'm so lucky to own.