I was still on Roman -- really, whenever I have the alternate, she puts me on Roman -- and that was nice. Grooming him before the lesson was somewhat melodramatic: he kept trying to suck in his gut and look pitiable (which just wasn't convincing), as he'd shoot longing looks over at the jar of horse cookies and then let a little trail of drool ooze from one corner of his mouth.
I have decided this horse wants everyone to think he is a Dickens character. ("I am an orphan, I live in the cold, no one feeds me enough, woe, woe... do you not pity me enough to give me the entire jar of horse cookies, now? Okay, how about if I hang my head and let my ears fall to half-mast... are you convinced now? No? Drat.")
At any rate, after last week readjusting to his habits, getting him up to a trot and keeping him moving was no real issue, nor was posting; I'd remembered his gait pretty quickly.
So, of course, this meant it was time to torture me.
The first torture was an exercise intended to improve my arm position. Ever since the hand injury, I've had some problems keeping my hands in the right positions relative to each other. So I was told to take a dressage whip and hold the two ends of the handle in each hand along with the reins. And then told to ride several laps, posting the trot. This, I managed to do, but it was exhausting after a bit... and it causes some serious abdomenal burn after a while! Meanwhile, my classmate worked on practicing changing diagonals.
So, having done that, we moved to trying up-up-down posting, which I'd done before (though not for a while) but my classmate never had. That's always a bit of a burn, too, though hardly as bad as what she came up with next.
While my classmate took a break, I was told to try something new. I can post the trot without stirrups... so the instructor told me to try, instead of dropping both stirrups, dropping one stirrup *while* at the trot, posting the trot with only ONE stirrup, and then picking up the other stirrup again.
Okay, I can now attest that it is a GREAT DEAL more difficult to post the trot with one stirrup than with no stirrups. It is doable, but yow. After trying that several times, I actually managed to pick up the stirrup one time without dropping to a walk. (I am still convinced this final round was blind luck, rather than skill!)
While the instructor worked with my classmate, I decided -- stupidly -- to post the trot without stirrups, just to confirm for myself that it was indeed easier than the one-stirrup exercise of doom. Answer? Yes, much easier. Simple, in comparison! Of course, I am also going to regret that one when I feel it in my thighs this weekend.
At the very end, my classmate had gotten a severe back cramp and had to stop, so the instructor had me canter Roman. I discovered, to my chagrin, that my legs had cramped and I had completely lost strength in my thighs, so could not make Roman actually get up to a canter! This was disheartening, though the instructor assured me after the One Stirrup Exercise of Doom, not entirely unexpected. However, she took the opportunity to try and help me work on my leg position while I tried to get my leg uncramped. Then, one more try at the canter.
At first, I was off-center and out of control, though I had managed to urge Roman up to his full-speed canter. Had to drop back. A second attempt, I only got the so-so Bouncy Canter of Doom. But the third time... I don't know how to describe it. Everything clicked. Roman hit his stride, I positioned myself perfectly, and we just flew. I felt like we could've done that forever... it was just incredible.
Of course, the lesson was coming to an end and I had to stop. That made me sad. Roman too, actually; despite it being work, there was just this moment of 'this is RIGHT, let's go.' He kept glancing over his shoulder at me like, 'but, no, now I'm starting to have fun! We have to stop?' But I got complimented on that canter by the observers, by my classmate, and the instructor. It was a good note to end on. :)
Groomed Roman (who was most insistent that he Really Deserved The Entire Jar of Horse Cookies, Honest). He got a cookie, and his coat treatment, and I cleaned his tack and then fed all the usual suspects. I also spoke to the instructor about other lesson times, since I do plan to start riding twice a week next month if I can find a second lesson that works. We also tentatively talked about times for a hack session, if I do go and half-lease Roman (which I seriously want to do, though I think I should try two lessons a week before I do so).
The best lesson plan would probably be going with the alternate instructor (this week's instructor) for one lesson and then continuing this lesson time with my usual instructor. I think I'd learn a lot that way. But darnit all, the one really workable time for that conflicts every other week with one of my two writing groups. Augh! Decisions...
Anyway, having fed all the usual crew and spent a little more time with Roman, I drove home in the rain, very, VERY grateful for Volkswagen cars having heated seats.
I am really gonna feel this lesson tomorrow. But I also feel like I made a lot of progress!