In playing with the Patterns I am discovering how weak my foundation is with Cricket. I've known it for awhile but I see it now. I've been asking Cricket for more but the base of our relationship is too small to support advancement.
Thus we started our riding patterns at the very beginning. Lots of walking and trotting on a Freestyle rein. I need to learn to trust her and she needs to learn to trust me.
We started with our third session of Touch It on the 22'. To say Cricket was less than enthusiastic would be a gross understatement. I continued until she offered a positive response and then we moved on to our Circle game. Cricket is getting better with her right-to-left FLC but she's sticky on her left-to-right flying change. So I just kept setting her up to try it, giving her an opportunity and rewarding her when she picked up the right lead canter after the change. On about the fifth opportunity, she offered the FLC and we stopped and I gave her a handful of cookies.
I took her in the arena and saddled her and mounted up. She was more relaxed during mounting and she offered an immediate lick and chew when I settled in the saddle. Continuing with our patterns, our entire session was about walking and trotting on the rail. I had cones marking a path around the arena and we used them for transition markers. Some of Cricket's trotting was soft and relaxed, some not so much. I also noticed how much more she drifted to the inside when we were going around to the left. Hmm, how interesting.
I am trying to help Cricket maintain her connection during upward transitions. While auditing a PNH clinic (at least L3), the instructor said something to the effect of "if your horse doesn't respond to your seat on a downward transition, you've lost your mental connection." So that's what I'm keeping in mine when Cricket and I play with transitions. We might be doing the L1 patterns but I'm still a L3 student and I can ask Cricket to be more particular.
One thing that interested me was how much Cricket was not accepting the halt. She would stop but it was with tension. At the end of our session I had to be fairly strong with her about something - not mean or mad, just strong. I asked her to stop on the rail and she wanted nothing to do with it. After a few seconds, she would walk off or turn to the inside or whatever. I decided this was our final task, to fully halt and accept being on the rail. I knew she had some tension because in our last trip or two around the arena, she'd started flipping her head. Nothing bad but I knew she was getting stressed. I don't know how long we stood on the rail but she would say, "okay, I'm leaving" and I would answer, "no, not really." FINALLY, she stepped to the inside and I waited and she put herself back on the rail. Good enough for me. I jumped off and told her how wonderful she was.
Two more check marks on my chart and a whole bunch more to go. But I felt good on my horse. I felt more confident in asking her to trot and less like I needed the reins. Maybe I drifted a little towards micromanagement with the "stay on the rail" and I'll watch that next time. Oh, I placed the corner cones too deep and I asked Cricket to help me move them - she was awesome!