Today we played with all the things we've been working on over the last two and a half weeks under saddle - soft touch, circles, stretching, and freestyle riding. I decided that what Aspen and I need to work on the most is actually a little more elementary than the finesse we've been working on of late. The steady feel in her mouth is like holding her hand - she really likes it and finds comfort and focus in soft touch... where we really fall apart is our freestyle riding where she turns into a 1200 pound noodle that doesn't like to stop by my seat. Susan helped me come up with a plan for creating some consistency in an environment full of variety (18 horses plus an arena on a hill). The plan will be to ride counter clockwise so I don't have to yield the rail and play the corners game with Aspen - focusing on straightness, being particular about offering her the stop with loose reins, and not allowing her to be sloppy.
Maurice had us also play with leg yields which turned out to be very frustrating for me. I don't know why we keep getting jammed up and I felt really discouraged after the ride was over. During lunch I remembered what Ann Kiser told us on Day 1, that if you're not feeling something you aren't learning anything. Sometimes learning can be uncomfortable and frustrating but you need to experience that to push the limits of your knowledge farther and farther - expanding your educational horizon :)
During the afternoon session we covered Falling Leaf, S Pattern, and Rock Slide. Aspen was awesome and once I became more particular about her attitude during the send I got a lot of draw and effort! I even got her to jump a tiny upright stump in the pasture! I had the opportunity to chat with Maurice about the leg yields during this time and explained that I felt that Aspen and I might perform the yields better if I could do them uphill or on level surface to lighten her front end or to do them heading for the rail as a point to point. He was very encouraging of my lateral thinking and said that I should give it a try. Advancing in horsemanship isn't about following all the rules it's about learning them through and through and then redefining them to work for each horse as an individual.
So tomorrow, I hope to ban all frustration from my ride and get a fresh start with leg yields and expand on our great on-line session we had this afternoon! :)