Yesterday I got to the barn around 3:30 pm and Rogo was so dirty (caked on mud) that it took me almost an hour to groom him (even for a half assed job). I didn't get out until well after four. It was snowing lightly, but I was dressed warmly and looking forward to a good ride. It gets dark so early now - it's dark by 5:00 pm.
We worked on the ever elusive bending. He's gone from not bending either way, to only consistently bending to the right (for months), to bending better to the left, to bending better to the right, to bending better to the left. Literally. The last few have been within the last two weeks. Is this normal? Is this how they get to bending both ways? He's bending both ways now, but much stiffer on one side than the other and the side switches, almost every ride. What's so frustrating is that a few times it's been there evenly both ways, and then it's gone again. I ride consistently - I mean regularly :) - so I don't understand what's happening. Anyway, I think it will come, so I'm not going to stress about it.
Because it was cool (cold?) and we were having fun, I worked us hard, maybe the hardest we've ever worked. I rode for an hour and a half and for the last while I was riding by moonlight (it was going on for 6:00 pm when I went in). We trotted and trotted and trotted - figure eights, 20 meter circles, going large, stretching and mixing it up. I asked for more engagement and more sustained push than I've ever asked him for before and he stayed with me for every stride. That surprised me. I'm used to him stalling out at the trot fairly quickly but he didn't last night. Then again, I was very determined and maybe he sensed that. I need to get our fitness level up! A very nice realization is that he gets and stays rounder when I push him to work this way - good boy!
After that we did walking leg yield and shoulder in. He's being slow to get leg yield, but maybe I'm slow to give the aid well. Partly it comes down to him not listening to my leg, which I'm pretty sure he understands, and which is also behind the bending issue. I'll probably start wearing spurs soon, as my legs are getting quieter (I wore them with Savanah but Rogo's movement was much bigger than I was used to). I'm not suggesting that I'm going to jab him in the side to get the leg yield, but my legs aren't all that strong and if I can keep them quiet, then spurs will clarify the aid.
We finished with trot canter trot transitions and they're getting better but have a long way to go, especially the down transition and especially for me riding it smoothly. We did one counter canter quarter line loop.
I was there alone (there was no one home, no other riders / boarders), and the moon was lighting our riding by this time, while a few stray flakes of snow floated down. Call me crazy, but this is magical to me.
I read the new training level and level one tests today. They look good, but I must read the old ones. I thought level one counter canter was to the quarter line, but now it's to the center line - that is going to be hard! One change I really like is that you can do rising trot at Level One. The longer the better for me. My back isn't great and until Rogo is consistently more round it isn't good for either of us for me to sustain it for long. I'm glad the test writers recognize that rising trot can be easier on young horse's backs, since some are doing level one as 3 and 4 year olds. I think we'll start at Training, but I definitely want to be into Level One before next season is out.
Doug and I started for the barn today, but snow squalls hit when we were almost there and we still have summer tires on the car (of course we left the 4 wheel drive truck with winter tires at home). Damn. We turned for home and it was very slippery. I was very glad to get home. Snow tires go on the car this week and we'll be at the barn first thing tomorrow morning.