I had a jump lesson scheduled on Thursday afternoon and was looking forward to rebuilding my jumping relationship with Murray and continuing to work on teaching him to jump.  And then, right as I was about to pick up my jump saddle put it on him, it started to pour.  Absolute sheets of rain that obscured my view of the end of the outdoor arena from the barn (not even a 200 meters away) and made me pick up the dressage saddle instead.  B came running in from her previous lesson and was more than happy to have me dressage inside instead.

Of course, less than ten minutes into my dressage lesson the rain absolutely stopped but oh well.  Pics from a previous lesson in the glorious sunshine, not this week’s lesson in the rainy rain and indoor.

febdressage09A dressage lesson was in good order, though, because integrating a bigger stride into my horse’s repertoire is important for both dressage and jumping.  Murray started with quite a good walk, and then I picked up the reins and asked him to quietly walk around with some contact, instead of in his standard stretchy-free-walk-ish-but-not-quite posture.  To my surprise Murray did not object greatly, and we moved into the trot without minimal issue.  Unfortunately, it was Murray’s shitty tiny trot, so I worked hard trying to encourage him to step more forward and move out.  Our indoor footing is still a little on the deep side in the middle since it’s arrival a few weeks ago, so that could kiiiinda be an excuse, but we worked in the better spots a lot too.

B immediately had me push for more than Murray’s little trot, and Murray seemed in a good mental place to receive that pushing.  Instead of resisting and flinging himself around like he did at our lesson with Local Olympian, he was like “ugh FINE”.  B wanted me to push Murray a little beyond where I wanted our working-trot to be — even to feel a little uncofortable/rushed — so that I could settled back down to a “compromise” of a good working trot.  This is a bit the opposite of the strategy Local Olympian had me try (“come with me to this nicer trot!”) but since Murray was responding well to it, I think both probably have a place in my repertoire.

moar trot! moar! I think this frame is stretched though, my horse’s legs aren’t that thick.

We also worked on steadying my connection with the outside rein, especially to the left rein when tracking right.  Murray naturally wants to ping off that rein or use the left rein contact as an excuse to counter-bend lean on his right shoulder, so I worked on quietly reminding him to keep some bend to the right without overdoing it.  I am a bending freak — I love bend! MOAR BEND! — and have, according to Local Olympian (and B agrees) “more bend than I know what to do with”, so I really need to work on taming that instinct.  The correct bend for a 20 meter circle, and even a 15, is less than I feel like it should be.  Having the correct amount of bend, in turn, helped me avoid the feeling of constantly leg yielding around corners and circles, another thing I had wanted to work on.

Too bendy, Nicole!

Next up B taught me how actually lengthen the stride at the trot instead of just dumping my horse on his face and hoping for the best across the diagonal. The aforementioned dump-and-pray was my strategy for the first few lengthenings, until B told me to wait until I could feel Murray coming into the connection and then push my hands forward slowly like I was pushing two chopsticks forward.  We struggled more tracking right than left but we got some.  And damn — you can feel it — when you get them.  I started grinning like an idiot when I got the first one, I could feel Murray’s back come up and he took a hold of the bit and really stepped forward.  My MIL has described a good lengthening as feeling like your horse is on rollerskates, and yes! It does!

After trot extensions we worked on the canter lengthening to 15 meter circle at the canter, which I thought we had a pretty good hold on but it turns out that given my ineptitude and his druthers Murray doesn’t actually use himself in his canter lengthenings, so I had to ask for a little more connection there too.  My trick of riding the next quarter of the 15 meter circle worked out well, and I just had to remind Murray  not to lean on the right shoulder too much when tracking right.

feb dressage canter 3I’m fairly pleased with our dressage progress lately, given that we have spent so little time riding and I’ve been fighting Murray not feeling quite right and not necessarily coming out mentally prepared to work.  It’s a good thing I put nothing on my schedule until April though, because I have no idea how much more this stupid thesis will stop me from schooling my horse.  So at least we have time.  And even then there’s always plenty of that.