I had three good rides today - it was cool - temps in the mid 40sF and cloudy.
Dawn and I had a ride where we struggled a bit with softness. Dawn is one of those horses who will give in the upper part of her neck, while bracing with the rest of her neck - you see a lot of horses who do this - it has a characteristic look, where there is a curve behind the poll and then the neck is straight - and braced - behind that. Dawn is also built somewhat downhill, which makes self-carriage more challenging for her. There were also some distractions - a horse that was galloping around in turnout and screaming - that made things more challenging.
What I was getting with Dawn today was posture - the position of her head and neck and body - round, with top line longer and and core engaged - but without mental softness. She was still tense mentally, particularly after we did any shortening work - she seemed to feel constrained, which made her rev up. Despite her physical appearance of softness, from the inside she wasn't soft. I'm not getting that lovely lifting feeling from her right now that indicates true softness. Posture isn't softness - softness comes from the inside of the horse, and while posture is part of the picture, it isn't the whole thing by any means.
It may be that Dawn, due to her downhill build and relatively straight shoulder, just can't carry the posture that true softness tends to produce. I need to work with her on a longer, lower carriage that will allow her to move to the best of her physical ability, without her feeling mentally constrained. The question is, can she do any shortening work or collection, without loosing the feeling of softness - I don't know yet but we'll figure it out together.
Red did a lot of very nice trot work today, with even better concentration - he came right back to me whenever he was distracted. He's now able to cope with my carrying a dressage whip without being worried, which is very good. His trot is improving, and he did quite a bit of work today. Tomorrow, if he's still feeling good, we may essay a bit of canter . . .
Pie worked today on perfecting his canter work - it's coming together very rapidly. After our very good session yesterday, today was even better. Pie was able to carry his canter around the ring for a number of laps in each direction, and his softness was even better - instead of a number of strides of soft canter, we had a number of laps of continuous softness. There is now no appreciable difference between his canter on right and left leads - his right lead used to be more difficult but that is no longer so. He was also able to carry himself around the corners with ease, and whenever the softness was lost he came right back to it.
I'd call that a good day with horses! (and be sure to vote . . . )