Fun Day! Peri and I hauled up to Julie's farm for lessons. I rode Fleck twice. We started with a flat lesson. And WOW!!!! Fleck gave me the most amazing canter depart and then the most amazing canter. It was awesome. But first... we started at the walk. We worked on keeping him supple. No more inverting or being silly just because. He's a big boy now and he can put on his big boy panties and behave. :) So to help keep him soft and supple, I had to "row the boat". In other words, Julie wanted me to keep the connection with his mouth but be elastic in my elbows and shoulders. I kept wanting to alternate my hands rather than follow him with both elbows in the same rhythm. It was like trying to pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time only the opposite of what would be normal for most people. :) Egads... And then I needed to close my legs evenly on his sides, gently gripping, as if he had a small leak. No bouncing my heels on his side every few steps. That created too much static. Then I could gently squeeze him into the connection and then lengthen the reins. That allowed his head to bob gently. Duh!! I remember Cindy telling me this. (Ugh, why do I keep going in circles with my riding).
So then we moved onto the trot. Same thing. Only now I needed to really think about rowing the boat. And watching the mane, keeping it on the outside quarter line. And to do that, I had to make sure that I wasn't crossing my inside hand medially over his neck. I had to focus on riding with my legs and seat. I really end up not sitting on my right seat bone at all. Even when I dropped my left stirrup, I still had most of my weight in that left side. So I need to really sit on my right seat bone and to lengthen my right leg. Thinking of lengthening my leg didn't really do it for me. I end up pulling my leg up but by thinking lengthening it, nothing was really accomplished. BUT... if I thought of lengthening my leg by dropping my right seat bone and lengthening my leg, it worked. At least for a few seconds til it crept up again. Sigh. But by doing that I wasn't collapsing in my core too. And shockingly, once I did that, Fleck got off my right leg and bent around it. Aha!! It really helped to ride his withers with my upper leg - not pinching with my knee, but pushing him with my upper leg and lower leg. For the downward transitions, Julie had me envision pinching the beach ball with my knees to tell him about the transition coming and then using my core. I also had to post MUCH slower and smaller. I don't know if I have always been posting that fast and Fleck is catching up to me, or if I was catching up to him, but regardless, we are both WAY too fast. By slowing it down and getting him supple and bending, he could move in a nice ground covering trot rather than his mincy choppy pony trot.
And then we did a few back to back transitions, and then a transition to the canter, but by trotting, then walking, then trotting and thinking walk, but instead asking for the canter. The first time Fleck and I were both a little shocked at how nice the upward was and he bucked around a bit. So the second time, we were both ready and WOW!! The sun shone down and a rainbow appeared and birds sang. ;) It was glorious. He was rocked back on his haunches and the transition came from his hind end. He was up in the wither and stayed up in the wither and had this lovely upper level canter. And he could keep it. It was effortless too. I didn't have to squeeze the daylights out of him or cluck or kick. I just sat and rode the rhythm. Glorious!! Even Peri gasped and was excited for me. :) The right lead wasn't quite as nice but it was still a good canter. After that we worked on the stretchy trot and keeping him slow and in a good rhythm. Then it was time for a quick break and watch Peri and then we would jump.
So, despite thinking about rowing the boat and such, Fleck and I were hot messes in the warm up for our jump lesson. Sigh... He was inverted and distracted and I just let him be that way. So Julie yelled at me a bit and told me to not forget the flatwork. Yield him out into the outside rein. Row the boat. Use my voice and tell him "eeechhh" when he's not focusing. He's an awesome horse, so he needs to act like it. And that means behaving. So it took a minute but we got him settled. Okay, so a few minutes. Julie told me to just breathe and focus on my flatwork and not get so riled up. So then we were allowed to jump. ;) She had set up a cool grid. Basically a small vertical to a bounce pole to a small vertical to a bounce pole to a small vertical. BUT... it was on an arc. She said it was 6', 9' and 12' apart (from each pole/jump to the next so the shorter side of the arc was 6', the middle was 9' and the largest arc was the 12'). Fleck bounced on through like it was nothing, though it felt uglier than it looked. So then she set it up a hair and when I really thought about collecting him (Cavaletti, Cavaletti, Cavaletti!) it was easier. And didn't feel as icky. So then we carried on to a vertical. And then back to the grid again. So then she wanted us to do a few fences in a row. She said to just keep coming and going back and forth over whatever. The fences included a weird oxer made up of a skinny vertical and then a regular vertical, the round top, a bounce grid, and another vertical or two. She had us keep coming and keep coming and keep coming. I managed to do okay. My leg got weak and I had a hard time yielding him into my left rein. I really had to think about kicking my inside leg forward a bit and sinking my right seat bone down. But argh.. it's a lot to think about. We managed a fairly decent few jumps though. And Fleck never looked at anything. Even the crazy oxer thing. He took all sorts of different spots - long spots, tight spots, and a really really long spot! I'm happy with my lesson but still frustrated at myself. I know it's a process, but it seems like it's taking forever. At least Flecky is awesome :)