My lesson last week was very interesting - 50% the best work yet, 50% not so hot. Kind of a microcosm of the overall experience with this horse, I guess. My coach had ridden him in a bitless bridle the week before to see how he went with it. You know, take the bit out of the equation and see what you've got. She was thinking it might help encourage him not to curl behind the bit since that issue has been fairly persistent. She found it helped a lot, so I tried it in my lesson too.
He was amazing! I know I said awhile back that I was starting to get some of the best canter ever. Well, this week was SO much better! I've never felt anything like it. His head was up but still in a hunter frame, perhaps a touch higher. It felt great not to suddenly be riding a headless horse, as it does when he tucks in. His front end was up and I could feel the impulsion from behind. You can probably tell from some of the photos that he doesn't always engage his hind end well. I describe them as leaking out the back door. That day, I really got to feel what it was like to ride the back end for real.
The funny thing is, I wasn't riding any differently. So it was a good lesson that sometimes it's not all my fault, lol. I never just "ride the front end" but that didn't help the tucking behaviour or the lack of hind end push consistently. Having our coach ride him has helped her realize what issues originate in the horse versus rider. And it was a good test to see how I got him to go in the bitless, I think. If I still had the behind the bit stuff, it would have been a sign that I needed to do something differently.
The feeling of his back was even better than just being uphill and carrying himself. He really lifted his back and I was surprised at how dramatic the difference felt to my seat. It's amazing how something can feel so powerful and relaxed at the same time. I think it's a feeling I could get addicted to :) My coach had me get off his back for a while to encourage him to keep moving that way. Even in two-point, I could feel the difference in the shape of his back. It's as if it resonates through your legs or something.
I suspect I tend to sit quite deep normally. I'd like to get my coach's opinion because I was wondering if maybe I've been blocking some of his motion and therefore discouraging that kind of movement. I'm kind of like a burr stuck on his back, I don't think I inhibit his motion but rather go with it...but you never know. It's probably something that changes depending on how free and loose my own back feels.
Oh, on top of that, we did some haunches-in at the trot that was really good! Brumby is just learning this and I'm no dressage expert, so I'm not talking about doing it the whole length of a dressage ring or anything. But I got about 4-5 strides of correct haunches-in, in both directions.
Then, we did some more gymnastic work. I was glad to see I didn't feel any residual lack of confidence after the last time, I was in a better frame of mind. Still, the line was extremely hard. My biggest issue is keeping the nice steady rhythm coming into the line. Brumby gets so strong and doesn't listen to any aid. It's not too bad when we are moving away from the barn but towards the barn is almost hopeless.
Oh, he jumps everything, alright. Jumping is his "thing"! But we end up doing one stride when I was aiming for 2, or even a bounce in what should be a one stride. It's rather hard to stay with a horse that ignores you and does a 14+ foot stride and takes off long! I try so hard to do everything I'm supposed to but it does get frustrating when none of that amounts to anything. It's not always horrid but it is not the nice cadenced gymnastic I'm aiming for. I felt like the last half of my lesson was completely different from the first half, hence the 50/50.
The other "50" is that my lease rate is going up by $50/month. It's a pretty big increase but I have to admit it's fair. I've been getting a pretty good deal compared to other leases in my area. Not by a lot, but a little. Now, we have the wonderful (insert sarcasm) HST (harmonized sales tax) which affects board rates and therefore Brumby's owner had to increase her rates. Again, completely understandable, just unfortunate for me!
Hazel update - for those who might be interested, Hazel is doing ok but not 100%. She seemed to be improving a lot but then tonight we had a set back in terms of what she was "producing". Her behaviour is great, though. I think the crazy heat today might have played a role in our set back, even though she was in air conditioning all day. Let's hope so!