So, on Saturday I went up to the farm and said. "Today we're going to work on forward. Basically, if he doesn't respond to my leg immediately, I'm going to bring the wrath of God." Maybe that sounded a bit overdramatic but hey!
From the moment I get on, whip in hand (and I often ride with one so it's not just that I was carrying one when I usually don't), Kieran's ready to go. His walk is energetic. When I ask him to trot, it takes one squeeze of my legs and a quick swat of the whip before he goes. Still energetic! When I sit and ask for the canter, he goes straight into it (instead of continuing trotting for several strides and needing me to keep after him)!
I'm all like, "well crap, he's on his game today!"
We ended up not riding for too long in the arena, but went outside instead and practiced riding up and down the slope of the driveway (cantering up, trotting down, that sort of thing) because I know he enjoys doing stuff more outside than in the ring.
After that, we went back in the ring and got in a good twenty meter canter circle and showed the intro test A to Christine (who plans on doing it at a local show this weekend). By that point, he was pretty sweaty so (and it was cold!) so we spent a while just walking around before I got off and took off his tack and pulled out the big blue ball and got him to walk after me, pushing it with his feet. He's really figuring out that I want him to interact with it (he also rubbed his head on it and licked it, hah).
Kieran may have also taken the opportunity to roll in the arena when I left him for a minute to go get a camera (he was making funny yawny faces at the ball and I wanted to capture them! Alas, he wouldn't humor me when there was a camera).
Anyway, it made for a good horsey day. :) I figure him being so ready to work can be chalked up to either the weather (it only just got really cold) or him sensing that I wasn't going to play games. Or, you know, both.
On Sunday, we had a lesson and mostly we worked a lot on circles and bending. Though it's not as bad as it has been, I was still having issue circling him (mostly to the right) and getting him to both point his nose a little inward, but also listen to my leg pushing him over toward the wall so our circles would actually be the size they needed to be. It got better as the lesson went on and I got more relaxed and Kieran warmed up and Christina reminded me not to brace with my outside rein. Later, she commented that I seemed to be holding my outside hand a little further back than my inside hand (though not actually pulling with it) and that may also be exacerbating the problem so I have to remember to keep my hands even (which, after I started making myself conscious of really keeping my elbows at parallel points on my sides, it got better).
Another funny thing was near the end when she wanted me to just go in 20 meter circles around X and work on things like, "post eight strides, two point eight strides" then do 4 and 4, then 2 and 2, then do 4 posting without stirrups, 4 sitting without stirrups....I stopped focusing so much on "fixing" Kieran and focusing on myself and doing the exercise and...lo and behold? Our circles were a lot rounder! And it wasn't that he was pretending to lunge around Christina (Kieran will, if she's standing in the middle of the ring) as she made a point of going to stand by the wall. So again, we come back to our problems being mostly manufactured by me. ;)
We also did an interesting exercise that I think helped Kieran warm up. Christina says it doesn't really teach the horse or the rider to do anything, but it does work well for helping the horse to warm up/stretch. Anyway, she put a barrel out and had us first just walk in a small circle around it then I was to slowly work toward getting his nose pointed more toward the barrel and his butt out away from it. Sort of like sidepassing in a circle, but not really. Basically the object was to get him to really stretch his hind legs underneath of himself. Later, I got her to show it to me from the ground and it's neat to see. :)
Hope to ride at least once or twice this week before the next dressage schooling show on Saturday.
*tap tap* Is this thing on?
9 months ago