What a FUN day. Hot, sweltering, miserable day, but fun. Fleck and I hauled up to Wishing Tree Farm and got there in time to get ready for our dressage lesson with Kelly. I LOVE riding with her. She's really funny and I think she gets that I'm really dressage dumb, so she really makes it blatantly obvious for me. I told her what we had been doing and how I was so excited at what Kelli said the other day. She said that my core was engaged and my shoulders and upper body were working independently of my seat and legs. YEAH BABY! Even Kelly whooped and hollered with me about that. :) And once we got started she said that she could tell we had been working on our homework and that he was much softer already. Whoo hooo.
We went back to what we talked about last time. First comes the connection. And Fleck was much mroe willing to give it without as much work on my part. But then Kelly wanted me to release the outside rein to allow him to bend when we were tracking right. I sighed exasperatedly and said that this was a big issue with us. I never knew how much to release because I always felt like I had to hold him up. If I drop that outside rein, then he falls in and it all collapses. But it makes it very hard for him to supple then. I then said "And I KNOW that holding him up with the outside rein isn't the answer, but....". So then she stopped and got to the nitty gritty. And I know people have said this to me before. Probably repeatedly. But now Fleck and I were in a place that we could hear it and get it. She said that the reason he was hanging on the outside rein (going right only) was because he was not going into the right rein at all. And that made him push to the outside, fall out, tilt/cock his head, etc. OH!!!!!! That makes so much sense. So we went to the left again and worked on the classic "inside leg to outside rein" and tried to get Fleck into the right rein. It took some counter bending and then rebending to the inside for flexion to get it. And he kept wanting to fall out, but we did get it. Then we went back to the right. Kelly said that technically this isn't correct riding, but in order to get him closer to correct riding, we had to do this first. So.. same thing.. only it's not inside leg to outside rein.. it's "outside leg to inside rein" but only because the inside rein is the one he's avoiding. It was a bit mind boggling but really... not as bad as I thought because it made sense to my brain. I need to put him INTO the right rein, even if it's the inside rein. For now, the weight will be much more heavily weighted into the right rein, but the ultimate goal is to get him even in both reins, and then.... I'll go back to riding the proper way that direction. And it was accomplished the same way.. counter flexion (which was ultimately true flexion to the direction, but not to the rein) and then back to true flexion. I had to use that right rein to supple.
Egads.. it was hard work but we managed to get it and Fleck was much better than the last lesson. Yay!! No one got any picture (poo!) but trust me.. he felt AWESOME. Once I was able to get him into that right rein, then I could work on the push and impulsion and back lifting and it was awesome. His trot felt amazing and his canter was so bouncy, I couldn't sit it. So much fun!
By the end of our ride we were both drenched in sweat and tired. Fleck got a bath and then hung out in the cross ties and shade for a bit and then hung out in the pasture with Gizelle. I watched Christy and Beth and Kathy ride and learned more. The theme of the day for jumping (as that's what I watched mostly as I missed the earlier dressage rides) was all about a soft seat. Kelly was explaining that when we sit before the jump (which is common for eventers) we usually take our leg off. And she explained that if we sit before every jump.. it loses it's "surge" effect. She wants us to reserve it for the scary jumps and when we really mean it! If we use it at every jump, it becomes dull.
Then it was time for round two. Of course Fleck had rolled in the red clay and was orange on one side. Sigh.. Oh well. We got back on and I will admit. I was feeling pretty miserable at this point. It was 3:30 in the afternoon and HOT. And HUMID. And I had been sweating non-stop since 9 am. I was not feeling it. Kelly wanted us to warm up over a little vertical and she wanted us to maintain a steady rhythm and be organized. I think at first she said to land like you are heading somewhere else. I asked if she meant like "our tail was on fire" or more like "there's another jump". hee hee. She did NOT mean "like your tail is on fire... I want ORGANIZED". Oh dear... Fleck came through first and scrambled through the turn, lengthened and flattened to the jump, landed in a heap, and sped up on landing. I was impressively more unorganized up top. Sigh... OOPS! We came again and it was slightly better but not really. I finally realized that Fleck was aiming and locking on to the triple bar as we came around the turn and that's why our turn was so unbalanced. (Well, one of the reasons). I was then able to organize better and we managed to not be an embarassment. We then moved on and worked on the same stuff but adding in more fences. Kelly reminded me about my release. I need to reach down and forward with my hands and my feet. Use my landing gear! We managed to get some decent jumping in although Kelly noticed that my first fence was usually fantastic and then it got worse. She told me to ride each fence like it's the first fence - with that much control and thought and management. She said that Fleck is great and will go, but he requires a lot of management to keep him perfect.
So... super educational day. Lots of fun and lots of learning. Yay!