Well - I'm happy to say it took longer to line my truck up to the trailer than it did to load Val. Our trip to my trainer's farm also easy. By midday Val was settled in and (very) happily grazing in a beautiful green pasture. I headed off to my brother's wedding with plans to return Sunday morning.
Our first lesson went smoothly with focus on aiding -
"as little as possible, as often as necessary".
Val has a lazy streak so I need to be sharp with my aides to keep him listening and moving under himself. I also must help him keep his neck straight for us to stay on track and not fall in or out of our school figure. Afterwards it was naptime. Dressage is such hard work...
I watched several other student's lessons and later that afternoon we saddled up again. This session was mostly trot work. Erin reminded me not to get stuck trying to "perfect" any one thing... momentum can refresh and help overcome issues. This is definitely true with Val as I find he will start to anticipate what I'm going to ask him to do. He needs things to constantly change up so that he remains interested and engaged. As we got warmed up and paying attention I was able to move him off of my leg rather than the whip. What a good boy!
We squeezed in one more lesson on Monday before we had to head back home. It was spitting rain so we decided to work on the lunge line. The last several times I lunged Val at home he would repeatedly run off bucking and rearing, dragging the line out of my hands with a N-U-T-T-Y look in his eye. If he was trying to intimidate me, it worked. Nothing of the sort this time. He listened well and started really moving nicely. I was especially happy with his focus because his (new) girlfriend Lacey, one of Erin's beautiful mares, hung out in the peanut gallery for a while.
I left for home feeling super encouraged about our progress as a team, and what our future holds, especially since it had been FIVE months since our last lessons. Erin's feedback will help me to develop me a plan for our training until we see her again. Most of all - this trip showed me that I have finally achieved confidence in myself and my horse. What a relief :)