I had really excellent rides on both Dawn and Pie this morning.
Dawn was up first. Either her softness was really available, or my body was quiet and my hands allowing, or perhaps both - she was able to do some very nice soft walk and trot work, including lengthening and shortening work. I started throwing in canter fairly early in our trot work to see how she responded to that - instead of doing a lot of trot work and then focusing on canter, I did some canter, then more trot, then canter for a while, then more trot, etc. This helped her stay listening and responsive, rather than anticipating, and also energized her trot work - forward was really there which helped the softening. I'd have to say that our canter work today was about the best we've ever done. My seat was quiet, my hands were following and staying right at the point of resistance, and the result was that she was really carrying herself in a relaxed, lifting canter that also had plenty of forward. We even got this to the right, which has been her more difficult lead. No leaning or bracing to speak of, despite another horse being in the arena - she tends to be more tense when other horses are around but that didn't apply today, perhaps because I didn't care. The softening to the left was pretty good, and although we didn't get much softening to the right, the fact that she was able to carry herself in a relaxed canter was big progress - we have to have that before softening will be able to happen. It felt really, really good - like riding on air.
Pie was up next - Red got his leg iced while I was getting Pie ready. Pie and I also had a great session - we worked in the indoor mostly by ourselves, and had plenty of space to do lots of changes of direction and big circles. His forward and softening work at the walk and trot were just about perfect. We worked a bit on walk/trot/walk transitions, working on maintaining the softness through the transition and also maintaining forward in the downwards transitions. What makes the biggest difference is my posture - staying up with my head and focus and thinking forward - and being sure to cue for changes in gait by thinking the new rhythm and breathing through the transition. Then on to canter. Since we had the whole arena, we were able to do a lot of nice canter work - full laps and also large circles. Pie's canter was really excellent today - he was able to maintain the canter well and there were many moments of true softness. Most of the transitions were pretty good too. He's developing a really lovely, round canter on both leads - there's a lot of elevation and power - for early stages of development of his canter under saddle it's quite nice already. Again, I was able to just sit (while still riding but with minimal action other than breathing and allowing with my seat and hand) and he just carried me around with that lovely riding on air feeling.
Very nice stuff - there's nothing better than that feeling of a really nice canter when you're really with the horse - what I call riding "in" the horse and not just on the horse.
Red has decided that SMZs don't taste so good after all - I expected this to happen. Each meal he's leaving some behind - more every time. So I got some applesauce and now we're doctoring the taste of the ones he doesn't eat outright. His leg is looking better every day. He's got one more day of Banamine and the vet will be coming back on Tuesday to recheck him. This afternoon his leg looked almost normal - if you didn't look very hard you wouldn't see any swelling. He's been very unhappy that he doesn't get to work like the other two horses do, and I think he's also jealous of the time I spend with them - and he lets me know by nickering constantly and banging on his stall door. So today, since his leg looked so good, I did a bit of lungeing at the walk to check that he was sound and got on him for a bit of walking around under saddle - he seemed to appreciate that a lot. It was our first ride in 9 days and he behaved impecably - it helps that he's on full-day turnout. We walked for about 15 minutes and he was great. His halt transitions were excellent and we also did some backing - the transitions and backing were both lovely and soft. I had fun doing walk/halt/walk and then walk/halt/back/walk - the only difference was that I thought "back" with my body (the feel of a horse moving backwards and what your seat and hips do as that was happening) and it just happened - he seemed to easily make the distinction between when I was thinking of backing and when I wasn't - there were no other aids. The same applied to halt/walk - I just thought of the rhythm of walk as it would feel to me if I were doing it. We're disobeying doctor's orders by doing this, but I don't think it'll do any harm as his leg is looking so good. I iced again just to be on the safe side. Tomorrow, if he's still looking and feeling good, we'll do a little more walk work.
There's nothing better than having three fine horses! Someone at the barn asked me yesterday which of my horses I like best, and I said that I really didn't have a favorite - they are each special to me in their own way. Dawn is a mare of deep intelligence, brilliance and fire and takes every ounce of sensitivity and finesse I have to ride her well - she demands nothing less. She's also become very affectionate with me, which I treasure. Pie is sturdy and solid and willing to do anything I ask to the best of his ability - he's growing into a very fine horse and is already a great trail partner. Red is a treasure - sensitive and fiery and deeply serious about what he is doing and about doing it well - he's becoming a true partner. His athleticism is outstanding, and combined with his intelligence and try, we should be able to go far together. I feel truly blessed.