The good news about all of this is that we are making real, actual, tangible progress.
For so long I've felt like we are on the struggle bus and yes, making some improvements such as that pony stopped rearing, but not much that was really visible to most people watching. It's part of why I haven't posted video because honestly it's just been making me feel fucking depressed.
(Pictures are good moments from the bad video)
I was feeling especially bad about myself after a crummy ride on Thursday where after Katai's extra day off and having stayed in all day due to rain she was stiff and just not wanting to move. Of course I'd chosen to video myself that day and so the resulting video made me feel like giving up.
For about two hours.
And then I moved on and really looked at what was happening on the video. I watched it through, cringing, but thought about what L would have been saying as I was riding if it were in a lesson and I realized that while I've been thinking I've "got" certain things down it's just that they've improved. They aren't actually to where I thought they were yet but I actually do have the tools to get us there.
With that analysis I went to the barn the next day and really RODE my horse. Every step I chose what we were doing and kept making instant, small, gentle corrections. Every time I felt her just barely beginning to get hollow I'd make a small correction and bring her back before we were at the head flinging in the air stage. I kept her bent, I kept her at the same speed, and I kept her back up and I had a sort of epiphany that when I'm always letting her change her balance she never is balanced and that makes her feel panicky and like racing around. If instead I'm more firm about her staying the same balance she can get comfortable there.
Part of this is that I was riding more this way about 6 months ago but I was doing it in a very strong, forceful way and that was pissing Katai off. She also didn't have the skills or strength to go there at that point so it was just making her more upset and defensive. In some ways I've actually needed to get to a point where I was riding less and letting her do more as she developed that strength for us to be able to get back here but we are definitely at a point where I should be riding more consciously now.
Today for my lesson I planned ahead and got to the barn with plenty of time. At one point I was trying to keep my warm up to a minimum because Katai was getting tired by the end of the lesson and I didn't want to push it even longer. Now though she is getting to a point where I can have her warmed up before my lesson and able to start right in on more difficult stuff. When L showed up she was really impressed and started off saying how amazing Katai looked. She let us go for a little while and then said that we were looking so good that she wanted to start working on lateral work! Yay!!! She also decided that we were doing so well that she didn't want to climb on for this lesson.
For most of the lesson we worked on getting my body in the correct position for spirals in and out. She doesn't want me cheating anymore and steering her or pushing her in with my leg and wants it to properly come more from my body. Then we took those skills and used them to help me cue the canter correctly on the spiral while on the way out to the edge of the circle. Going to the right I had a tough time and that is also Katai's tough side for canter. One time I even had my body so perfectly wrong that she instantly picked up the counter canter. We did get two good transitions that way though and then I got two great ones in the other direction and we called it quits so that my amazing progress pony could get a break before she started feeling to fatigued.
One of the best parts of the lesson for me, other than a perfect left lead canter depart that had L grinning from ear to ear, was that after watching us for a few minutes at the beginning of our lesson she said that if she keeps going like this we could start out showing training next year and dabble at first!!! She said that Katai would be in a great place compared to some rated tests that she's seen at training level as long as we can continue to make improvements in a couple of areas. I've got homework, namely not allowing Katai to throw my weight to the outside of the circle and to practice picking her up at the walk and then giving her the rein again. She wants me to do this a lot so that it no longer offends princess pony and she just expects that its part of the routine.
I really thought I was going to be starting out at intro at a schooling show and maybe possibly doing a training level test at the end of the year. Training with a possible Level 1 test at the end of the year is more than I even thought we could accomplish next year but with how she is feeling I have complete confidence that as long as the wheels don't fall off the wagon before then we'll be able to do it!