After five days away from horses I ended up riding four today so got my fix in a whole sale dose ;)
First one - a very stiff ex-eventer who actually did go quite well several months ago but slipped back into bad habits, very reluctant to work over the back for various reasons and very tense sort of horse but we got some nice trot work in the end. He makes me really concentrate on positioning his shoulders as the moment you stop doing it you have him falling through one or the other in a matter of seconds.
Then a lovely mare that although shoved me on the ground a couple of weeks ago, is still my favourite horse to ride at this riding school; she's very responsive to any button you press you just have to make sure you press the correct ones! She seems to work best if you just ride strongly into the contact and don't give too much. She rewards herself anyway by softening on the inside rein through flexion and it seems to be a much better option with her than too much give and take on the inside rein. She teaches me to keep the contact very consistent as the quality of her work rises up a level if I do.
Third one is my "black horse" of the stables, a horse I really like for many reasons but that is a bit of a pain to school. He was very unsettled in the contact today and to be honest I don't know how to sort it, he is so against the bit and there seem to be no particular pattern to his evasions. Got about 15 minutes of very nice work and about 20 of horrid one. My thinking when riding him goes: 'Keep him straight, inside leg, outside rein, straighten, keep my inside side up and tall or he will drift, oops, too late, straighten, straighten, inside leg, oops, too much, outside, keep up and tall, corner- don't fall over;) ok, got through that, straighten and so on' ;)
Basically - straightness is his biggest issue, very likely the saddle, possibly his teeth and certainly the bit - we still haven't found the one he likes truly.
Fourth and last of the day was my friend's youngster who is getting better and better. Last time I rode him, about a month ago, he lacked that pushing power but boy is he getting it now! His suppleness has improved too and you can now actually encourage him to seek the bit a little. I've known him for a while and he had always felt as if his first question was 'can I go half the speed/using half-power?'. Well, today, it was like riding with a sports gear on! He basically took me for a ride for the first 20 minutes, was really powering forward and very strong. On a good note he is such a straight mover and is quite even in contact on both reins so balancing him is relatively easy. Being a big horse as he is he made it quite challenging for my 5'3 to connect him but there is certain quality emerging in the way he responds to the aids now, such a pleasure.
I am rubbish at keeping him together in canter on the left rein, I tend to collapse to the right, stiffen through my left hip and thigh which in turn misalignes me, makes me miss the first beat of the canter - as my left seat bone tends to lock - and takes the effectiveness of my seat away. Right rein was good, he sat on his back legs so much better than last time, giving me much lighter forehand to move around. Really like riding horses that are schooled the way he is being schooled, especially with no fiddling on the reins, makes riding so much more of an art rather than common street fighting.
And love his dressage saddle and arena mirrors!