In short: very basic foundational lesson that we both really, really needed.
If I could have asked to address any issues right now, it would be our lack of forward and my tendency to nag. Tris had been out for so long, and I’ve been so tentative about his rehab, that I haven’t really gotten after him the way I should have, and have fallen into the trap of asking every few strides for him to keep going, even at the walk.
That’s exactly what R. addressed after watching us warm up for a little bit. We made a great first impression (NOT) when I asked for the trot, and down the long side I asked for more forward, he flipped his head around, threw his shoulders around, tripped, and slammed my left leg into the wall, dragging it along for a stride or two. There is white paint all on my iron on that side and you should see the lump/friction burn on my knee. It was awesome. Then he head-flipped and tried to hop into the canter and was in general extremely unpleasant, though he started to listen and smooth out nearish to the end. Sigh.
So we worked on isolating driving aids, the idea being that he should darn well listen when I put leg on instead of barely maintaining. My responsibility is to dictate the tempo, his is to maintain the tempo. It was basically a disciplined, methodical version of the good old fashioned aid escalation method: he gets one test to listen to the aid he should respond to, and then he gets pony kicked forward and praised for going forward. We did the exercise in both directions, off each driving aid: leg, seat, whip, voice.
He is not a stupid pony. Within a few minutes he was powering right along with much lighter aids. We did it on a relatively loose rein at the walk and then trot, and then I picked up the reins for more contact and we repeated in both directions at walk and trot. In generally, R. had us going much, much straighter than I am used to – I am used to keeping him in some sort of bend at all times, and she wanted my hands MUCH quieter and to worry about straight and forward instead of bend. It was a good solid lesson and it was simple but not easy. I had to fight my urge to ask him for more bend, more supple, and just focus hard on getting engagement.
We did not exactly put our best foot forward but that’s okay; I think this was a fair representation of our problems right now, and after 11 months I couldn’t possibly expect him to come out and give me the work we had last August. We made clear progress, we have homework, and perhaps most importantly, I liked the way the lesson went, both physically and mentally.
R. had plenty of good things to say, too – she liked my general position, and even apologized for giving such a basic lesson, because she said she could tell we both knew better, and I had all the right answers, we just needed to shore up our foundation before we could move forward again. She liked how generally supple we were and said that once we squared away our forward problem he’ll be easy to get right back where he was. She also said he was looking 100% sound when he was straight (though predictably wonky when he was flailing all over the place) and complimented my rehab generally.
He’ll get tonight off and then back to work on Thursday. Hip hooray for progress!