It's been ages since I've updated my blog. Every time I start a blog post, I just sort of fizzle out. What's up with that? Maybe it's just a bit of the winter blahs . . . Who knows!
I've had several good play sessions with Cricket in the past weeks. We continue to work on and refine what Carol taught us at camp. In so many ways, my relationship with Cricket has never been better.
We've been playing with more intention on-line. Using softer phases and stronger focus has my little mare offering more with me doing a whole lot less. She's beginning to offer draw at speed, we've gotten some soft flying lead changes on the change of direction and she's offering canter more and more. I need to remember that I turned groundwork in to drudgery and it's going to take some time to convince Cricket we are actually playing.
Under saddle, we're still having a ball! I've been playing with steady rein and stretching into bit contact. Cricket picked that up in no time and now I'm teaching her to follow the feel of the bit - forward and down or back up into my hands. She totally gets it! She can get a little resistant about holding frame so we're just going soft and slow.
I've been teaching her correct bend for lateral work and she can nail it on the right bend but we've been fighting (for lack of a better word) on her left bend. Her lateral flexion is fine to both sides and her freestyle HQ disengagement is fine to both sides. But for some reason, when we put them together, it all goes to hell. Carol helped me break it down and Saturday, I asked for the bend and when I asked for the HQ she gave me the weight and body shift. Loved it!
I want to start preparing Cricket to be able to ask for flying lead changes under saddle. I never imagined this would be something I would do but I think we're ready. At least for the ingredients.
We're starting to introduce speeds within the canter. Unfortunately our arena isn't wholly conducive to this but we're making the best. I've started asking her for more speed on the long side and then to slow on the short side and speed up down the long side. It's a little hit or miss but I think that has more to do with Cricket trusting me than anything else. When she figures out I really want her to turn it on, I think we'll have some fun.
I also got a wild hair to start asking for freestyle walk-canter transitions. I saw it on a Mastery Lesson and thought, "why not?" I can get a little rattled asking Cricket to canter freestyle, simply because I had this idea that going from the walk to the canter was a finesse thing. Don't ask me where I got that idea. So last Saturday I just started playing with it. At first, Cricket gave me a racey-bracey trot. I just brought her back down and asked again. A few repetitions on the left lead and she got it and I rode one of her best freestyle canters EVER. On the right lead, she nailed it on the first try.
Speaking of right lead canter, I think we've finally exorcised the Corner's Demon. You know, the little devil on Cricket's shoulder that convinces her to run hell-bent for the corner every time we take the right lead. She offered a right lead canter on Saturday and rather than say, "No." I opted for "Me Too!" and she gave me several circuits of the arena with no indication of running for the wall. None!
And I have finally found the perfect bit. Because sometimes equipment matters. In the time I've been riding her in her new bit, she's come to the point where I hold out the headstall and she reaches for the bit and takes it up into her mouth. Recently, when I went to remove her bridle, she continued to play with her bit and I stood, for about 10 minutes, holding her headstall while she played with the bit. The past weekend, she tried to pick up her bit while the headstall was still on the wall and I was still saddling her. I think we found a winner.
So there's the update. In all of this, Cricket's attitude towards me is just amazing. She nickers to me, comes to me with purpose and intention. She's getting into the conversation more and more. In a word, she's becoming willing. It's beyond "I'll do what you say" obedience, it's "sure, that sounds great" willingness. Not all the time but more and more. Loving it!