When it rains, it pours! And that's not always a bad thing—I've had more opportunities for lessons in the last month than I've had in the previous six months!
Scott came today for a last-minute clinic, and I was really happy to show him the progress Fender has made. He hadn't seen him since August, and he was very pleasantly surprised at how far he's come. Much steadier, much more in front of my leg, and much more muscled—all good stuff. We talked about going for it a little more with the shoulder-in, something I've only recently started playing with, but not with the canter-walk transitions. He feels ready for the shoulder-in, just gets a little stuck in his body; the canter-walk is a little abrupt yet, and it makes him climby and out behind instead of gathering and sitting. No bueno.
Instead, I'm riding 10-meter circles in canter. I had been spiraling my way into a smaller circle, but not just popping out the smaller figures from nowhere. Surprise! Just going to the 10-meter circle right away is really hard, and it shows me that he's not yet ready for the canter-walk transition; he gets swimmy on the smaller circle. Duh. No harm done, though; a few of those smaller turns and he was really getting the hang of it. I'm sure that he'll be ready to start them again in a matter of weeks, if not less. A better plan of attack, for sure.
Other than those things, he was really a good sport. His leg yields are WAAAAY better, huzzah, and the walk is rapidly improving, too. Transitions were all good, lengthenings at trot were all good, and lengthenings at canter are stellar. He transitions back SO easily, no muss, no fuss. Awesome.
I rode Mr. Midge, too, and while he was a little tight in the back and neck (normally when Scott comes on a Tuesday I ride the horses on Monday, traditionally their day off; this time my weekend was so nutty that I really needed a day myself to recoup), he eventually settled down and made perfectly lovely work. Scott gave me a big ah-ha in the left canter half-pass—something that's never come easy. “Hey, dumb-dumb, use your left leg too.” Et voila! Much better. Funnily enough I made the same discovery on Ella about two weeks ago, but I hadn't put two and two together. Whoops.
I'm so excited about all his Grand Prix-ish work, but with the BLMs next week (at fourth level and PSG), I needed to get my brain back in Small Tour mode. We rode half-pirouettes (Midge: "Hey, why are we stopping? Aren't we supposed to keep turning?"), threes and fours (which the ones have made me ride STRAIGHT, because otherwise the ones don't really happen), and the PSG canter half-pass zigzag which I HATE, HATE, HATE, but them's the breaks.
In all, Scott didn't have a lot to say, which I think is good. And Midge only gets better as the week goes on, so onward and upward we go.
Midge will spend most of the week playing with pieces of the tests and focusing on the in-between details—corners, centerlines, transitions. I find with him that that's where I can win or lose the class, not only because it's good riding to nail those details, but because a good corner is SO crucial for him, especially in the lateral work. I think Fender will plug on with the status quo—thinking more like first/second level work, so that the basic WTC will feel easy-peasy for the show ring.
And Ella, who sat today's clinic out, will keep plugging away at this throughness thing we're working on. If she gets through it in time for the show, grand, and if not, then she'll be sitting this one out, too. Damn, if the timing of her advancement doesn't seem to reliably coincide with a big event!