I don't give my instructor enough credit. I know she's an excellent teacher: methodical, patient, encouraging, quiet. I see how Saxony is responding and I thought I saw how I was responding, too. But not quite. Some of my problems are bigger than I think they are. Because I'm used to festering about them, I think I know them and how they manifest, but I learned today that I can't really see that. Hard to admit.
I'm struggling with the in-hand work of late. It's strange, because I had it there for a while, or at least I was finding a flow with it. Today it feels like I'm starting all over again. Part of it is that Saxony is ahead of me now. She trains five days a week, but I have lessons with her only twice a week. Stepping into the in-hand work, she knows what's supposed to happen and she's used to working with someone who quietly and efficiently moves her along. I fumbled with the reins and the whip like my motor control skills were impaired. Once I'm fumbling, I do stupid things like push into her neck with my whip hand, push her to get her moving, not even aware that I'm doing it. I ended up standing there stalled this afternoon, snared by my own frustration.
In short, the fact that I go up into my head so quickly when challenged isn't invisible. That's what I learned today. I realized it when I saw B adjusting the course of our lesson to factor in my being tense and upset, and it's difficult to confess that. She kept me on the longe line for most of the lesson today until releasing me to ride shoulders in.
But it wasn't all doom and gloom. Yesterday I rode a sustained and comfortable sitting trot on Saxony in both directions, all the while working on keeping her on the bit, light and round. B told me we have to experiment every step of the way to discover what aids make sense to Saxony when we want her to round and bend. One thing I learned just today is that she looks for help from the outside rein to keep from over bending her neck. Hands low at the saddle and fingers opening and closing from time to time bring her quickly to the bit. Especially when I remember to breathe.
After the lesson ended, I stayed up on Saxony to continue riding in the outdoor dressage arena. We'll be leaving this barn, with its lovely indoor arena, on October 15th, so I need to remind myself what it's like to ride outdoors. But really, I stayed on Saxony because I wanted to see if I could ride her myself, just the two of us alone, the way I ride her during our lessons. And we did okay. We circled, with changes of direction, and I worked to maintain her impulsion and roundness at the walk. The roundness was easier than the impulsion. As B walked to her car, she called back, "I can see you driving her with your legs." I'm glad she caught it, but I'd been trying so hard not to use my legs, just keep them quietly draped against Saxony's sides, that I couldn't help but feel disappointed in myself. It's been really eye opening to discover just how heavy I can be, have been, with the aids. Yikes.
I'm learning. Days like this are the hard work of it, lessons like these good for me as a rider, better for me as a person.