Headless! I really like the light here, though. Early in our ride, before Miles' engine went full speed ahead.
Still, if I work even half as hard on a semi-regular basis during our rides from here on out as I did on Saturday, it will help tremendously. Miles just tries so damn hard and is such a sweet boy, I want to make our work as pleasant as possible for him. Though, he looks pretty happy here, no?
He's so damn cute I just want to put him in my pocket. He is happy in his work, he tries hard for me, he's very sound and sane and really, everything I would want him to be. Throughout most of the clinic, I felt balanced and effective as a rider...the best was hearing Cheri's corrections (post to your hands, hold that rein, half-halt NOW!), executing them, and getting immediate feedback from my horse that it was all working. I was so HUNGRY for feedback! She said she saw real potential in Miles as a dressage horse and myself as a rider, and encouraged us not to throw out the idea of using a bit yet (she recommends KK bits; hello $$ we don't have!)-even if it takes a year or so. She also said we would "make an impression" (ha ha!) if we wanted to show, but of course you can't show dressage in a bitless bridle:( I loved hearing all of it, naturally. Yet, we have real work to do, oh yes we (I) do. A summary:
Outside rein-though I try to ride "inside leg to outside rein", I've not been doing it correctly. The outside rein anchors us to the rail, and allows us to ride our corners and circles with wonderful stability and connection. I've been throwing it away too much and once I rode effectively with it, our ride improved 100%. Though we never got to do any canter work, he felt so wonderful and straight and connected I feel sure there were times during our ride when I could've asked for that right lead (we worked a LOT on our right side) and we would have had no problem at all. Something to try this week.
Oh my broken wrists. I need to double check myself every so often and ride holding my whip horizontally with both hands, to train my muscles what straight wrists, thumbs up feels like (damn hunter training). I also need to close my fingers, and I knew this-particularly in the beginning with Miles, I kept my fingers very loosey goosey, as he was most comfortable this way. Now that we are working into contact, I need to not do that. Also, my whip is not ideal-I dunno how long it is (longer than a jumping crop yet not long enough), but I probably should invest in a proper dressage whip. That's IF I want to carry one at all-I actually was much more effective with my hands without it, and Miles does not need it to go forward (Whee! Such a motor he has!). What we may need it for?
Lateral work. Our couple leg-yields we attempted were absolute crap. When Cheri learned we've never done turns on the forehand under saddle (Oops-honestly it's not really occurred to me) we worked on those. This was....challenging. Between the bitless bridle and my stubby leg, Miles had a hard time giving me even a couple steps at first. It's 100% my fault, as I've not done this sort of work with him before. So, we sort of blew his mind and I felt like a shit, backing up my leg with the whip when he wouldn't move. Of course, because he is a smarty pants, he got it after a little while, but when I finally asked him to go forward he was very tense and...yeah, he was freaked out. I've never hit him behind my leg before. I hated it. I don't want to do that anymore-yes the instruction was coming from Cheri (and she's right-he needs to take my leg seriously in all instances, whether we are trotting or at a halt), but I wish I would have prepared him better. So, I'm going to do more groundwork on this with him, and use my fist as my leg to help him understand what he needs to do, and work on it under saddle as well.
After our turn on the forehand work, I allowed Miles to walk forward; his head was high and his steps were short with lots of tension-there was that sitting on a powder keg feeling I loathe. Cheri recognized it right away, of course, and immediately had me send him forward into the trot. After a couple minutes, this turned into our best work yet:) We spiraled in and out, 20 meter circle, than 15, than back to 20, than 10-I've never felt so connected to my boy. I'm so glad he forgave me and let the past 10 minutes go, to work with me and for me.
When we were done, he was sweaty and tired, but happy. He hammed it up with Cheri, totally charming her, and she called him a golden retriever:) I felt great.
Yesterday I gave him the day off, but he was fine-no soreness or anything (wish I could say the same!). We took a walk around the barn property and I let him graze for a bit. Can't wait to get back on tomorrow.