Didn't have enough extra time to ride pre-lesson, so that answered the which-horse-shall-I-ride question. I popped the boys into the trailer and off we went. Another gorgeous (winter) day in the mid-40's. Lot's of bright sunshine and a willing horse - what more could anyone ask for!
And Sunny was willing today - he was soft, round and collected, especially at the walk, but his trot got better as we went, and even cantering wasn't as bad as it's been known to be.
I haven't brought Sunny for a lesson since... December, maybe? Eric declared himself completely - and pleasantly - surprised at how well he's carrying himself considering where we started this fall. We both still have miles of room for improvement, but still! :-)
We started slow, with about 15 minutes of just walk and bending at various stages of collection. It was a nice way to warm up, and a nice way to show off a bit, too. Then up to trot, and Eric gave me our next step, which is working on elevating Sunny's shoulders and lightening his front end more so he can really extend. For the time being we're to continue working on consistency, but as he gains strength and is able to carry himself for longer periods, I can start asking him to elevate for a few strides at a time, and then letting him stretch.
Sunny was focused and trying hard which meant he was earning his loose-rein walk breaks, and he's starting to figure out that stretching down feels good, which also means he's starting to use his back properly. Hooray us! How encouraging to hear that we're making progress in the right direction.
Moving on to canter - very sticky upward transitions, but cantering left was pretty good, or rather Sunny was pretty good, and I was okay. Since Sunny's canter right was about as good as it's been and he wasn't continually falling out of it, his reward was a loose rein hand-gallop while I attempted to stay balanced in two-point. And what a pretty picture THAT wasn't. But at least this time when he stumbled I didn't go over his ears like I did during our first lesson, so I guess my seat's improving, too.
Another walk break and we changed directions. Left lead was rocky from the get go for both of us. I could feel Sunny running out of energy, and I was getting tired, too. Left isn't his strong direction at the best of times, but I think if I'd been able to keep my lower leg more consistent he'd have been better. So it was back to basics, with me working on MY form and trying as best I could to keep him from breaking. At the last we managed to put a few decent circles and a semi-balanced downward transition together - enough to end on a good note.
Even though the lesson didn't end as well as it started, I'm far from unhappy with how it went overall. I'd suspected we weren't doing too badly, but hearing, "I never would have believed that he could come this far, this fast watching the two of you last fall," was a kick. And as much collection as Sunny gave me for the first three quarters of the ride, it doesn't surprise me that he was having a hard time toward the end. We both need to get stronger, and I expect we'll continue to improve as we do.
Total ride time? An hour and 20 minutes, including cool down - Eric had another lesson after mine, and I was able to catch part of it while I untacked and curried off the sweaty marks. Pete, the pinto from my saddleseat lesson, with a proper little rider up, looked impressively fired up and floaty speeding around the arena. Not sure how old M is, but she's tiny, and Pete's not a small horse. Her legs came about two thirds of the way down his belly, but her cues were practically invisible - it was easy to picture the pair of them in the show ring, flying down the rail.
Tomorrow is worming day, so I probably won't ride - fingers crossed the weather holds for the weekend!