It was 9:30 by the time I rode Lucy this morning. Brett didn't ride -- yesterday he finished stacking a cord of wood and his leg was bothering him again this morning. It was already much warmer than Lucy and I like -- 85F in the shade of the porch and the arena is in full sun -- when I fetched Lucy from the pasture.
After a quick groom,I tacked her up and walked her up to the mounting block by the dressage court. She stopped, threw her head in the air, and stared hard at Brett's tools stacked under an oak tree. He said that when he was working on laying the block for the compost bins the other day, she hung her head over the fence and watched him, completely unconcerned. Apparently, things looked much more alarming from the vantage of the dressage court. I walked Lucy over and she followed willingly, if a bit nervously. We got to the tree and she sniffed Brett's wheelbarrow which was resting against the tree. She gave it a tentative lick and then lost interest. We walked over to the blue plastic tarp that is covering his bags of cement and she sniffed that too. She took a bit of tarp in her teeth and pulled. Back at the mounting block, she stood quietly with her head drooping. Much better.
We didn't do much -- it was hot (yes, I'm a wimp) and dusty to start with plus Lucy just doesn't have much stamina or strength yet in her hind end. We did a little bit of trot work and a lot of walking. Lucy practiced being prompt in transitions and reaching to the bit. Initially, she threw her head up in the upward transitions, anticipating discomfort. We worked until she got over that. I practiced the timing of my aids and talked to Lucy about the amount of contact she needs to reach to the bit comfortably.
I think about the contact between my hands and Lucy's mouth as being the equivalent of walking hand-in-hand with someone. I don't pull or grip, but I don't drop her mouth (hand) and bang it either. It's a comfortable, conversational connection. If you put your two hands together, fingers interlocking, you can feel what I'm talking about. One hand is me and the other is Lucy. If I tense my ring finger, I can feel it in my other hand -- and that is how we talk.
Something new I read about on the Horse Listening blog and tried today, is releasing to the bit. I have a bad habit of releasing by reaching my whole arm forward. This drops Lucy's mouth and when I take back the contact it isn't comfortable for her. Instead, I tried relaxing my shoulders after the half halt to give her a release -- and, sure enough, she reached forward into the bit and moved with more self-carriage. Her trot felt awesome.
We worked for 20 minutes and even though the trot work was probably only 10 minutes, we were both sweaty when we finished. I hosed her off and put her back in her pasture -- where she promptly rolled.