Today we had the best lesson! I finally figured something out. First, let me back up a few days. Winter has decided to make an appearance and on Tuesday it was a cold and blustery day. Mac was very fresh for our ride and he was spooking (which for him just means looking around and trotting sideways - he *knock wood* doesn't really do anything naughty) and in order for me to keep any kind of contact with him I had to shorten my reins. In case I haven't mentioned it or in case you can't tell from photos/video, I like to ride with my reins long. I know it is wrong, but I've always "equated" long and loopy reins with soft contact. In my mind, I know that's not true, but it is just a bad habit that I have. So on Tuesday, that kind of loopy rein would just not do - with his head in the air, I had to have short reins to keep the contact. Lo and behold, though, despite the spookiness, we had a really good ride!
So then when I rode him on Wednesday even though he wasn't spooky, I rode again with the shorter rein. And again, he was really good. We practiced transitions both from walk-trot-walk and trot-canter-trot. Transitions are something we need to work on (especially at the canter) but they are improving.
I used the same short-rein approach in my lesson today (mind you, I've been told this by trainers my whole life!) and had such a good lesson. It really keeps a constant connection between us and shortens the reaction time on both sides - I can more quickly respond to his balance, and he can more quickly respond to my requests. We did a couple new exercises and did more trot-canter-trot transitions and I was so pleased! He does move over his right shoulder more than the left so I do a lot of straightening on that side. I think that has something to do with the crookedness I feel at the canter - going left I feel like I'm falling off the right side and going right he falls in on that shoulder. Just another thing for us to work on!
Have I mentioned that I love my saddle?!