She warmed up feeling very loose and relaxed, although still slightly heavy and braced in her jaw - I really do need to find a bit more to her liking.
EC said "She looks lovely , how is her canter today?", and so our lesson began. Up into canter, and it was lovely too. All those transitions in our previous rides mean I've now got a half halt and pretty adjustable canter to the right. The left visually looks nearly as good, but as the rider I can feel it's still a lot more work to put things together there. The balance is coming along quickly though! We've really got nothing like what I imagine our finished dressage canter will be, but it's starting to come together and there are moments where things feel pretty amazing. These cobs naturally have that powerful rear end and big movement, so when I get things right it feels all sorts of cool to sit. EC says it should feel like Bridget is lifting her shoulders up a hill, which is a pretty accurate description for the feel I get.
Next on the agenda: Canter around the entire arena, playing with beginnings of shoulder in and changing the pace. To do that, we add in 15 m circles wherever I feel she needs to slow down or rebalance (sneaky way to force her to collect herself, making the exercise do the work!) Focus on straightness, and ask for a couple of strides of shoulder in when it feels right. Again, use the circles to help - a few strides coming off a balanced circle where you already have the bend makes things easy.
While simple enough on paper, I expected this exercise to be really, really hard for us. I was expecting the changes in pace and body position to cause Bridget to lose balance and break to trot or scrambly gallop, particularly to the left. I think EC did too, since I was under orders to keep any trot steps to a minimum ;) We started on the left, saving the easier side for last.
And, the pony rocked it. No issues at all. She collected back as much as she is currently able, then happily went forward when asked. Huge smiles from me and EC. EC then upped the ante, asking us to really go forward down the long sides, and come back to a smaller canter for 15m circles in the corners. And, that's the story of how I rode my first real canter lengthenings. Not a faster canter, certainly not a gallop, but an honest to goodness WOW we are cantering but our steps are now ginormous and we are climbing up that invisible mountain :) Then I sat up a bit more and B came back to a nice canter for our 15m circle. Did it again to make sure it was real, switched directions and called it good.
It probably took you longer to read this post than the amount of time I spent in my actual lesson. Shortest lesson ever, because we accomplished everything plus another 500% right off the bat.
Homework: build strength until I can compress and expand the canter and add shoulder in and renvers a few strides here and there on a straight line without needing circles to help.
Can I say one more time how beyond happy I am with Ms Bridget? I know I always say how much I appreciate her, but normally it's from a "levelhead pony I can do anything with" standpoint. Recently, I've started to feel like B is hinting at getting kinda legit sport pony wise. She just keeps on stepping up to the plate. Maybe it's because I had zero expectations of that when I bought her, maybe it's because she's not the most athletic pony naturally, or maybe just that I've been riding the struggle bus for so long, but I'm still sort of in disbelief that things just keep on rolling along and improving. The pony I have today vs the pony of a year ago kinda makes me feel like I won some sort of lottery or something :)
Finally...in virtual adventure news, we averaged about 70km/week over the last two weeks, and are currently enjoying a virtual canter lengthening in the sand and waves along the Oregon coast.