So, today is looking like another wash out- woke up to rain and thunder. Forecast says we might get a few decent hours around 11, so we'll have to see what happens!
Yesterday, I worked Stevie out on some hills in a new area before going for a ride up the road. She was considerably more spooky than I had planned, so a bit more time was spent on ground work. We started off with our standard circling and yielding of the hindquarters. I'm making more of an effort to not always change direction after each yield; I don't want her anticipating as much as she does. I'd rather her disengage the hip, wait, then move off crisply. Stevie caught on well, but was clearly upset at first by the change in routine. She over-reacted a few times when she discovered she had circled off the wrong direction.
Once she had quieted some, we worked on drawing her in and making some figure eights. Her feet are still pretty sticky through the turn- she'll turn in and face up, then the forward motion dies down, returning when you ask her to change direction. I'm hoping that by simply being persistent, we'll work this problem through. With my 7 year old gelding, I got after him to keep him moving. While he won't break gait through his figure eights, he doesn't really draw into me as much as I like; he'd much rather just rock back over his hocks and rollback. While this is fine, it's not what I'm after in this case. So, the plan is to establish a bit more forward BEFORE getting her to come in, and hopefully it will carry through in a nice flow.
We did ground work for only eight minutes or so, then it was time to tack up and hop on. I spent a minute or so, just letting her move around with the saddle on before stepping in the stirrup. Once on, I continued to work her on her circle. We focused on moving the hips in response to pressure. I'd put her on the circle, look at her hip, press with my leg, then lift my rein until her hips had made two or so steps away. Then we'd continue off in the other direction. I noticed, especially this ride, that Stevie attempts to 'bottle spin', that is, her front end and hind end are moving. When she offered that type of behavior, I simply waited it out, got one good step with JUST the hips, then did a one rein stop to reinforce the concept of not moving the shoulders. I tried not to do too many stops, as I don't want to kill the forward.
We ended by a nice ride up the street. Stevie kept her cool with the five o'clock traffic (three cars) driving past. She was particularly interested in the storm drains; unlike most horses, who try to side step the drains, she tries to go up to each and every one and sniff at it. At this stage, I encourage that curiosity - it's far better than her side stepping away! We ended the ride with a nice trot up a long hill, then jumping up and over the stone wall to come home.