Video one shows how we always start out our work sessions - with a nice, relaxed, loose rein walk - Dawn is a horse who tends to always be extremely forward and who easily gets revved up, so we focus on relaxation from the beginning:
Due to our work on moving correctly with softness, Dawn now has a big overstep at the walk, which is a new thing for her.
If you watch video two very closely, it's actually possible to see what I'm working on with having a "allowing" contact, offering softness when she thinks about bracing and mentally softening when she's carrying herself softly but without throwing away the contact. This is a big step for me - learned in my work with Heather and Red - and it made an immediate big difference to Dawn. Before her head would be all over the place - braced by falling behind the bit and onto the forhand, then passing through softness and bracing above the bit, then repeat. This is pretty much gone - there is a lot of going into and out of softness in this short video, but the intervals are very, very short, her head position is much more consistent, and my contact stays alive but soft. Huge progress for both of us:
When she's been working hard for a bit on carrying herself correctly while staying soft, we take a break to reward her and let her rest by trotting on a loose rein - we do this frequently throughout our work and it also helps her relax - she generally no longer revs up during trot work to the degree she used to:
She's handling the variable terrain in the outdoor very well now - there's a good bit of slope and she also crosses the lumpy boundary between the sand track and grass with ease - for a horse that only recently was so wobbly with EPM that I couldn't ride her, this is wonderful:
Video 5 is more trot - she is such a lovely mare:
Video 6 shows our first canter departure, and also what we were working on - three steps of softness followed by a bigger release for a number of steps, followed by three more steps of softness. Cantering under saddle without leaning on the forehand and galloping is a big challenge for her - Dawn is built a bit downhill and her prior experiences with my younger daughter included a lot of galloping flat out on the trail. The upwards transition isn't too bad, and she offers some softness right away, but the softness is far from consistent and there's some bracing at the end. I'm also not worried right now about the bracing upwards as she transitions - one thing at a time and we can deal with that later:
Watch the tail in video 7 - Dawn's tail is a big indicator of where her mind is - she's staying pretty soft but she's worrying about canter - she's a big anticipator/worrier:
One of the primary things we're working on right now is staying soft and relaxed in between canter sets - this is still a big challenge for her. Video 8 shows a downwards transition from canter to trot. There's some softness on and off in the canter, bracing through the downwards transition (I'm not worried about this either so long as I ask for the downwards transition while she's still soft) and then I wait at trot for some softness before asking for the transition to walk:
Video 9 shows another upwards canter transition - the tail swish a stride or two before is when the thought of canter crosses my mind - I need to collapse the timing on my thoughts - no "pre-thoughts" - with Dawn to get rid of that:
Video 10 shows some trot work that I'm pretty delighted with - this is after a number of bits of canter work and she's extremely forward but she's moving like a dream, not anticipating canter and offering softness while forward - it's like riding a rocket ship where the throttle is oh-so-light to the touch - magical! She's not 100% mentally relaxed here - maybe 80%, but I'll take it since she's giving me her best:
Video 11 shows a final sequence of three canter transitions in a row (there was a fourth but it's not on the video) - this is very, very hard for her. While most of our canter work on this day was on the left lead - the one that's easier for her - I did throw in a few right lead departures on the straightaway. On the second departure - right lead - I do throw away the contact a bit and also overcue. Each time, I wait for a few moments of softness at trot before asking for canter again.
I couldn't be more pleased! My posture and riding are much improved (still far from perfect, but I'll take better) from my work with Heather, and the work we've been doing with Red on following/allowing contact and mental softness has really improved my ability to offer consistency to Dawn, and she's sure rising to the challenge!