Part of this, when working on my own, is self awareness. It's one thing if my instructor tells me that something is wrong but I prefer, whenever possible, to catch it before my lesson. Part of that is that I'd rather not expect my instructor to catch everything and part of it is that I want to feel like I can be productive on my own.
This time what I caught is that I've been choking up on the reins again too much prior to Katai's vacation. The problem is that during some rides Katai rushes so much that we go through this cycle where I get to the point where I'm using every weight and core half halt aid that I have and then I go to the reins. She slows down for a stride or two and then it's back through the same cycle. At some point I get so tired from all those half halt aids that I start relying more on my hands and eventually then even when she's not rushing as much I'm relying on too much rein.
Also, the name stubborn together? Well I seem to get to this point where I'm stubbornly trying to do what I've read in a book and even if it's not working for my pony I persist thinking that she's wrong. Honestly there's no way for her to be wrong, she'll always be honest about how she's feeling. It's my responsibility as the rider to figure out how to fix something so that she makes the change that I'm looking for.
Also, we've been working on getting her really through on the outside rein. She's good going to the right, left rein but doesn't want to take contact at all on the right rein when we're going to the left. Sometimes this requires me shortening up that rein with a nice amount of contact and then slowly working her out. When I'm working with L she can call me on when I'm just holding but when I ride on my own I just keep thinking that I need to keep that contact. Again, this get the reins shorter and shorter.
I had started noticing a few weeks ago that Kati was getting tighter through the shoulders and back and more inverted again. Nothing like before but she wasn't working with a nice long neck and swinging through her back like she had been recently. I kept thinking different things about it but finally diagnosed the above probably along with the soreness that came up in her two appointments. Although of course then I start thinking about whether, like the chicken and the egg, the soreness came first or the postural riding things.
Two weeks ago, with the saddle fitting day, was a little bit of a mixed bag when it came to rides. Since she had worked and gotten a massage on Monday I gave her Tuesday and Wednesday off instead of Monday and Tuesday. Then Thursday was drill team which was sort of when I finally diagnosed what was going on since I had an extremely inverted unhappy pony for the first half and then after making a couple of changes (like actually giving the reins forward a little) she got long and loose and swingy. Then this week of course she's been on a break so just got walked on the long on Wed, Thu, Fri. Had Saturday off and then just a walk ride on Sunday.
I also realized that I need to stop stubbornly trying to warm her up the way that I know works for other horses. She's not other horses, she's Katai and part of why I like sports involving horses is that there's the extra challenge of working with the horse as an individual to get the result you're looking for. In this case I need to stop trying to warm up Katai with more contact and instead, ignore the ugly during the warm up but not give up on bend, push from behind, a longer neck and nice loose back. Once I get her to the place THEN I can have high expectations and start to work on what I want but until then I need to do what it takes to get her there even if it's not by the book. It was this post by SprinklerBandits that made me realize this so thank you for that post SprinklerBandits!