Brego and I had our second lesson today. The theme of this lesson was: If the rider isn't balanced and straight, the horse has no chance. The good news was that I had done my homework well and Brego was responding much better, had more impulsion, and was better balanced. The bad, but perfectly understandable, news was I still have so much to learn to be a better rider.
So the big realization today was that I weight my left seat bone a lot more than my right. So we spent a lot of time focusing on me trying to be straight and even. The biggest help for me was to focus on which way my belly button was facing. Even if we were circling to the right, I always had my belly button facing slightly left. Once I was able to get my belly button facing the correct direction, it forced my right hip to be less stiff and I could land evenly on both seat bones in the saddle.
Trotting and circling.
More trotting, trying to get straighter.
A lot of Brego's one sidedness stemmed from my own stiff right side. It was amazing when I could really focus on being straight how much easier he was to ride and how much more forward and willing he was. Duh! Dressage is so good for me.
We did work on canter departures from a trot. In an effort to "help" Brego depart, I lift my hands really high to pick him up, while cuing too strongly with the outside leg. This forced him into a haunches in instead of a shoulder fore and made him lose his balance. Then, just to make his life as difficult as possible, I would lean forward and push this forehand back down, making it nearly impossible to rock back and depart properly. Go me!
If I could keep my hands down and supportive, leg yield with my inside leg to balance him and then verbally say "canter" as I cue with my outside leg, he did really well. My homework is to work on getting the canter cue cleaner for him since he really didn't understand it without the verbal reinforcement.
My trainer then got on Brego and worked on his moving off her leg at a walk. Wow, she really got him into shape quick. I guess that's why she makes the "big bucks" as a pro. Brego looked really awesome when she was riding him. He had nice elevation, was very soft, and she corrected his pulling enough to really let it sink in. When I got back on him, he was definitely lighter. Of course, it takes two to pull, so I know I am a big part of that problem, but it was very helpful to see her work with him and see him respond. She mentioned he was very willing to do what you asked, he just didn't really understand. His biggest problem is being green and not knowing much, not that he's resistant. This is major progress from even six months ago when he was very resistant to anything that even closely resembled work.
All in all, my trainer was very positive, which is one of the reasons I think I learn so much. Even when I got mad at Brego when he was trying to smash me into the rail trying to canter, she was very calming and helped me see it was mostly my issue and how to correct it. I wish she could follow me around and help me smoothly get through life's more frustrating moments! Anyway, she seemed very upbeat about his prospects and really liked his canter. She was also very positive about a small dressage schooling show for him if I can find one in the middle of summer in Texas.
I am going to spend another 10 days or so working on the things I learned today and then come back for a lesson in a small dressage arena. I hope we're ready by then for the dreaded 20 m circle!
Regardless, just looking back to March of this year, we've come a long way!