It was a hard lesson today. I had to work against myself to be able to work with Saxony. I'd like to know what had me uptight, but all that really matters is that I didn't let myself off the hook. Nothing bad happened. Saxony is learning, and I am learning. It just didn't flow, and I didn't kid myself about it. It felt like a roll-up-your-sleeves, suck-it-up-and-get-to-work moment. After a bit of consternation and embarrassment, that's what I did.
One thing that's new for me is Saxony setting off into a canter as soon as I unfurl the longe line. She does it without any prompting from me, which leaves me feeling not in control, or at least disconnected from her. I asked B and she explained that we're working to help Saxony find her natural comfort zone cantering on the correct lead in both directions and that once Saxony gets there, then we can work to shape and guide her. She reminded me to send Saxony cantering forward with real energy until she self-corrects to the proper lead, or start her again from the trot. I'm glad of the repetition from this instructor.
So I had this black dervish of a mare cantering to the left with gusto, but often on the wrong lead or cross cantering. Both of those are hard things for me to see because I've never had that eye for the movements of a horse that so many people seem to have been born with. Even so, I have gotten to the point where I can now recognize Saxony going on the wrong lead with her front legs. Cross cantering, though, is a challenge for me to detect. I went up into my head to chew myself out for not being able to see it instantly and there I got a sudden glimpse of me being a jerk to myself for no practical gain at all.
Saxony was uppity for the in-hand work, then, and I quickly became tangled in the dressage whip, inside rein and outside rein. It was that kind of thing. She wouldn't halt cleanly when I wanted to gather myself up and start again. When I did persuade her to halt, she swung around to face me. Awkward. It all felt awkward.
We rode the whole lesson off the longe line, beginning with a forward walk on a large circle, encouraging Saxony to carry herself with bend, roundness and impulsion. I felt like I was sawing on her mouth trying to bring her onto the bit. There'd she'd come and the next instant her jaw would turn to wood and go heavy against the reins. Yikes. It was hard work, seeming to require more from my hands than I've ever used as a rider. Maybe right now I have to do more in order to end up doing less. The contrast between her being on the bit, softly chewing into my hands, and off it, gone away into a leaning daydream, is big. It ends up being the difference between balance and imbalance, something I can really feel.
"No courtesy circles," B said as I struggled with our right shoulder-in. Saxony had stopped and I didn't know how to send her forward. That's right, no courtesy circles. Crap. I can't just turn her around and ride right back into shoulders in. I'm sure it wasn't pretty, but eventually I got her under way from that standstill.
Trotting, trotting, working on the same roundness and contact, I wondered whether I'd wanted it to be easy all along. No. No is the authentic answer. There is an old quitter in me, left over from my adolescence, who had no voice today. She could only wave self-pityingly from some dim, long ago high-school bleachers. I saw her, but I did not hear her. It was a hard lesson, hard work, in front of spectators, even, and I did all of it. Saxony's worth it. My love of having a horse is worth it. I've grown up that much, at least.