I always envied those who could afford schoolmasters. Until Lucy, I have always bought young horses with no dressage experience. I had a lot of fun but I didn't progress in dressage very fast. I was new to dressage myself when I started on the journey fifteen years ago, I've still never ridden a test beyond Training Level, I've never had access to regular lessons and I'm getting older (so I'm not as brave and don't enjoy "challenging" horses anymore). I did learn a lot with each horse, and I felt enormous satisfaction in teaching the horses; Jackson in particular. But I never felt what a well trained horse should feel like so I didn't truly know where I was going.
I'm not complaining. I was happy. I was riding! Really, that is all that mattered. The horses were all unique personalities and gave me their best (well, except for Winston and Auke) all the time. From Starman, I learned shared thought and communication, from Auke that I like a sensitive horse (because he wasn't), I learned all about try from Jackson, and I learned about talent (yes!) and obedience (forgetaboutit) from Winston.
Lucy has the best of each and more. She's very sensitive, very forward, obedient and she tries to figure out what I'm asking for. When I get it right, she blows me away with her talent. Like Sunday morning...
I rode Lucy early, before the sun came over the ridge and started baking the valley. The kids were still asleep and Brett was inside reading the paper (he didn't want to distract Lucy with thoughts of breakfast on the way). I've had trouble getting Lucy to work through her body -- she bends and transitions and does everything I ask for but I don't feel self carriage. Of course, it was me. I wasn't asking for that, not really.
We used the concentric circle exercise again. I started at 20m and took a steady connection at the trot, with my inside leg asking for bend and a guarding outside leg so she didn't pop her shoulder out or drift. I kept that at 15m and then, on a 10m circle, I kept her active and stepping way under with the inside hind leg as she bent around my leg. It almost felt like a leg yield on the circle, but not quite. It felt like we were floating effortlessly around. I kept that feel on the 15m and 20m circles as well. At one point I gave the rein completely to see if she was carrying herself (because I was pretty sure she was) and she just kept right on keeping on, perfectly balanced.
When we finished, I noticed that her lips were wet -- the first time I've had her relaxed enough in steady contact to get that for more than a short time. I was pretty pleased with myself for figuring out how to ask for better connection -- and I think Lucy was pleased with me too. "Some students," she told Pistol later, "are a bit slow; but she's improving. I think that there may be hope."