This morning we managed to get some proper work done. My goals for the day were to maintain our softening at the walk, work on our backing until we were able to get several repetitions of soft backing, and work some more at the trot, particularly to the right which is her harder direction, on maintaining consistent softening.
There were also some things I wanted to work on in me - these are pretty apparent in the photos in the last post. When I'm working, my left leg tends to come up a little bit, which I expect means that I'm putting more weight in my right leg. This might have a lot to do with how she's been going at the trot - to the left would be easier since I'd be weighting the outside, and conversely to the right would be harder since I'd be weighting the inside. I was interested to see what would happen. The other thing I wanted to work on is my upper back and shoulders - I tend to round my shoulders and hunch my upper back, which puts my center of gravity a little too far forwards, making it hard for her to use her hindquarters properly. Holding myself in this position also results in some bracing in my shoulders and the lower part of my neck - and guess where Dawn is the stiffest? This position also causes my elbows to be out rather than close to my sides, resulting in hands that are a little too low and close together. It's my job to use my body in a way that helps her, by riding in a balanced and non-braced position, instead of getting in the way.
At the walk, I kept thinking about my posture, elbows and stretching down with my left leg while keeping it relaxed and not braced. She softened consistently at the walk, so we moved on to working on our backing. She was a little sticky at first, but once we'd worked for a while things began to break loose and the back became much more soft and relaxed.
Then we did a lot of trotting. I continued to work on my position while we were working on her softening. We did lots of circles, ovals and changes of direction through a figure 8. After only a little bit of work, the trot to the left was pretty consistently soft, so we spent more time to the right. The more relaxed and long my left leg was and the more I was able to keep my upper back and shoulders up, the better her trot to the right got. We worked our way up to 11 steps of soft trot to the right in repeated sets - this time I didn't let the reins go completely between sets as we continued to trot around - this may be encouraging her to push down on the bit - but just gave her a little more room. Then we did some more backing - much improved - and did some more sets of trot to the right - we were able to put together several sets of 11 steps that were soft.
To finish, as we were trotted, we went on a straight line and I asked for a halt - it was fluid and lovely and she stayed soft right through it. After she stood for a few seconds, I asked for back and it also was just right - soft, slow and very nice. That was an excellent place to stop, and I told her what a great horse she is and, after a walk-out so she could catch her breath, took her into the barn, untacked and gave her a nice rinse off with cold water - she'd gotten pretty sweaty. I think the consistency of softness at the trot is almost there - she's really got the idea now and my improved position should help her with the work as well.