I didn't ride Friday, Saturday and Sunday - horse withdrawal! (although I did see them each day if only briefly). Dawn hasn't been ridden since last Wednesday, either due to my being busy or mostly due to the continued very cold weather - Sunday morning the wind chills were below zero (again) and I had to bring Dawn into her stall early since she was cold and hating the wind. I'm hoping it'll be warm enough tomorrow so she and I can have a ride. This morning, she did get a nice grooming and we did some massage and energy work which she seemed to enjoy.
But Red and Pie and I managed rides today, and we had a very good time (I did and think they seemed pretty happy about things, too). Red and I have made a lot of progress on one issue - the lousy first walk/trot transition - and have identified a source issue that, although we're going to continue working on it, may require the clinic with Mark to resolve. The good news is the first walk/trot transition has gone away as an issue - the first transition is now just about perfect every time, which is a big change. No fussing, no attempt to bend right or throw his head right.
All it took was being sure that he was soft before asking for the first walk/trot transition, and riding him deliberately from behind into it. I think the problem he was having was that he wasn't soft, so he was bracing against my ask, and I therefore put too much energy into it - which was a brace back, and he was on the forehand which made the whole thing that much more difficult. Now that I'm making sure that he's soft first, that eliminates the bracing, and since he's soft, he's carrying himself from behind so the transition is easier.
Really all I've done is move the softness we usually got in our rides after the first walk/trot transition back to before that first transition. But the lack of softness at the beginning of our ride, that we have to work through, is still there. He walks off apparently soft from the mounting block, but the first couple of downwards transitions and backs are very braced and we have to struggle through that to get to soft. Once we're there, though, it sticks, which is a very good thing. There's clearly something I'm doing or not doing in the beginning part of our ride which is not allowing the softness to come through immediately.
Red and I also continue to work on maintaining softness after work that is more lively - canter work, lateral work, or collected work, for example - he does these very well but is getting too jazzed up and tends to get a bit "jangly" and light instead of soft. I expect it's me adding too much energy to the equation when we're doing the more challenging work - Mark will be able to give me some help on this as well I expect.
Pie and I just need to continue to practice continuous softness. His initial softness comes through almost immediately, if I ask for softness from the first step away from the mounting block, and his trot work is now exceptionally fine and consistent. I've started asking him for some continuous softness at the canter, and his canter is improving by leaps and bounds. Occasionally, like on one occasion today, he just gets tired at the canter and starts to lean on my hands and pull. That's just due to how physically challenging this work is for him - he's very willing but gets tired. I need to keep in mind how wonderfully he's doing for a horse that is long in the neck and back and built somewhat downhill - it's hard work for him to carry himself consistently from behind, and I have to be sure to give him breaks and rest periods so he doesn't get overtired.
Very nice progress - both horses are really responding to my attempt to be consistent about asking for softness all the time.