Val and I had another productive session. Chilly and windy, but nice enough down at the barn. Our warm-up went very smoothly, although I wondered if Val was sore from the farrier's visit. His strides were a bit short and mincing when we first started. Should he be sore three days after his trim?
Besides the obligatory time spent trying to pay attention and coordinate my reluctant body parts, we worked with the cones - set into a line, about eight strides apart. Weaving through the line - as well as circling the cones and accurately targeting each cone. At one point a very loud and strange sounding bird began crashing around in the trees next to the arena. It definitely got Val's attention.. he stiffened up, snorted some and generally got tense. I attempted to redirect him, and his reaction was, no, I only want to face this way and stare towards the monster in the woods. My response was to pay no attention to the distraction, ask for a step and then a halt, then two steps, then a halt... then a few more, and so on. My trainer has been stressing to me to be aware when we're in challenging situations, and Val has given me something - stopping there, and especially praising and rewarding. My tendency in the past has been to say, well I got that so lets go for more right now - wrong...
We were back on track shortly. Towards the end of our ride, I worked without reins for a while, and then dropped the stirrups as well... practicing halts and turns. I had several interesting epiphanies. One - while my feet were out of the stirrups, I got the quickest, smoothest most willing turns ever. Especially going left. I believe that without my foot being in the stirrup, the uneven torquing issues with my right leg and hip disappeared. Obviously my stiffness has been blocking Val. I was aware I had been blocking, but thought it was through the rein aids. His sometimes reluctance to go left is a direct response to this blocking - I'm quite sure of it now.
The upshot is:
1. I need to address my physical issues
2. There is a lot more work without stirrups in our future.. that bareback pad is going to come in handy :)
Two - for the first time I can remember since I started riding Val, I actually forgot which direction we were riding. Things were equally smooth going both ways - I didn't need to be aware of it. Progress!
We have spent some time after each of our recent rides getting familiar the new arena... grazing nearby and doing some work in hand. Val is becoming very relaxed back there now. I plan to carry that relaxation further by taking Val out to the beach sometime this weekend - it has been a while.