Today was a good day. I had lessons with Kelly at Silverthorn. It's always fun to ride over there. We didn't jump with Caroline today but it was still fun and a good lesson.
I told Kelly that I was pretty much giving up showing prelim for the moment. It's just too hard right now and I'm tired of not ending the day proud of us and instead frustrated and disappointed in us. So... I will still lesson and play and school and have fun. But I'm taking shows out of the mix because my heart just isn't into it right now. Kelly said that she was glad that I left it open ended because she thinks things are fixable. She was quite polite about it but basically I think she thinks that it's me causing the problems. And I agree. I'm so worried about him and whether he's sound and happy, that I sort of forget that maybe it's just crappy riding on my part! And I certainly think so after watching my video. But it's hard for me to ride 100% all the time, especially at shows. So.... we're taking a breather. Maybe for good, maybe for a bit, maybe from prelim. We'll see. I just want to have fun and enjoy my best friend.
Anyways, we worked on getting a better canter with more engine. Kelly said that Fleck was just not in front of my leg and not responding to my leg. She wants him to GO when I say go. Not 10 strides later, not for 10 strides and then quit, and not building up in 10 strides. So we started our lesson on a circle. Kelly said that we had to get Fleck more reactive off my leg. So at the walk, we asked for the trot with a very light leg. Just a little squeeze of the heel. The reaction should be instant and forward and then he should maintain the trot until I ask him to do something else, without me constantly nagging. And of course, Fleck did trot but it wasn't "hot" off my leg. So... I took my crop and smacked him once, fairly hard, behind my leg. Of course he bolted off. I praised him and settled him and then we brought him back down to the walk again and asked again. This time he was hot off my leg and our trot was powerful. :) Yay! So then we took it to the other direction and did the same thing. Then we took it to the canter. We got a fairly energetic canter because Flecky is smart. But we did have to reiterate it once or twice.
Point is... we got a nice energetic canter and Fleck was hot off my leg. I had to remember that Hot off my leg and energetic canter meant that he was forward and in front of my leg and had those pistons firing but NOT FASTER! So then we worked on finessing it and added in jumping. We kept the jumps at training height, because, as Kelly pointed out, those were easy for him. And she told me it was going to get ugly and weird but it was okay. We balanced the canter and got it forward and hot but not fast. Then we jumped the four stride line. Kelly said that Fleck started great on the circle and heading to the fence but once we hit the line, he flattened out, lowered his head, and got strung out. So she wanted me to work on keeping him more upright in his canter. She wanted me to keep THAT canter all the way to the fence. And that's hard! We managed it a few times and then it fell apart some.
To help get and keep that canter...I had to half halt as his one leg was on the ground and the other 3 are up in the air (which is also when his head came down) but I had to make sure to do half halts and releases! Not just hold. And alternating half halts. And keep the connection.... he needs support so there should be about 10 pounds of pressure in my reins. But it's a following/elastic connection, not just hanging.
Interestingly enough... ;) It all makes sense. If he gets flat and on the forehand... then it's harder for me to get my upper body back up on landing. Thus it's harder for him to get off his forehand. But... when we get to the fence in an upright balanced canter, it's easier for me to stay up on landing, thus easier for him to stay upright. Duh! ;) And when his canter is upright and balanced and energized, it's easier for him to pick his front end up and get it out of the way and jump prettier.
Sigh... it's simple, it's just not easy. But we made good progress today I think. :)