Derby, for all I love him, has a mischievous streak. And he's come up with a new little quirk... namely, continually veering towards the center of the ring. It's not a bad leg or knee, it's just Derby slowly trying to spiral inwards in hopes that if he reaches the center and stops, the lesson will end and he'll get his treats.
This has, unsurprisingly, made lessons this week a little interesting...
Thursday, I didn't get to jump. My posture was not as good as last Friday; my shoulders weren't as straight as they should be, and I was tilted a little forward. So Thursday was refreshing what I'd not done for a week... making it stick again. We worked on flatwork at a canter... bending and steering, and trying to really get my upward transitions to the canter, and downwards from, to be really smooth.
I also had to work on assertiveness, since Derby's little 'veering inwards' trick doesn't make for particularly precise steering. :P
For all that I was disappointed not to jump, I was very satisfied with my transitions to and from the canter at both the walk and trot by the end of the lesson. I think riding a week apart, things don't always 'stick' as well as they might; riding twice a week helps, but since the days are one right after the other, I'm starting to realize I'm always a little rougher on Thursday than on Friday.
I also had to say goodbye to two old friends on Thursday. Bayley (who I nearly bought), and Chester (the first horse I rode for any length of time) are both being retired. They were supposed to be driven up to Washington State University, where they'll be living at the veterinary school. They'll basically live in a field, be given treats by fawning veterinary students, and periodically give blood for students to do lab-work with. They /might/ get an experimental knee surgery being developed there, since both have bum knees, but most likely they'll just get to retire and relax.
Chester in particular, I know I'm going to miss. He's one of the only pushbutton horses I've ever met; if you asked him to do something, he did it. No complaint, no question, no hesitation. Even though he was 28, he was one of the best school horses. If you ever lost confidence for any reason, they could put you on Chester and you'd build it back up very quickly. He's a sweet old man, always ready to come over and nuzzle or say hi, and always eager for a treat or to meet new friends. Everyone's aware he's going to be very, very hard to replace.
Today, I was back in practice after yesterday. My shoulders were in the right position, my transitions were smooth, and so we went on to jumping practice. It was cross-bars today instead of a real rail, but that was because I was doing a course with multiple jumps. (Yay, next step!) I'd trot up to the cross-bars, jump them (Derby doesn't care that they're cross-bars and he could probably trot over them, he just jumps), come down in a canter on the other end, drop to a trot, turn around and come across the diagonal, do a second jump that was on the diagonal, land, drop to a trot, do half a lap, and drop to a walk to discuss that round with the instructor.
Both Derby and I were having a lot of fun, though he started pulling the 'veer towards the center' trick towards the end, and forced me to put more leg on the inside than I usually do. This caused me to come at the jumps a little off-center two of the eight times through the course, which is something I'm going to have to work on. I also keep letting Derby pull a bit too much of the reins loose when we do the canter on the back end, and that means when I hit the second jump, I've not got a particularly solid contact at the mouth, and he can start to veer.
I also discovered that Chester and Bayley's ride up to WSU had fallen through again, so I was able to say farewell to them for a second time. (I don't expect that they'll be there by next Thursday, though.) I also spent a little time cuddling Roman, and a lot of time cuddling Derby. Both days, Derby would ignore his treats, and try to block the stall door until he got a good five minutes of scratching behind the ears and on his withers. I also had the younger sister of one of the other riders inform me gravely that Derby was 'too skinny' and needed to be fed more. (He's not, but being a mutt, he's built very oddly.)
Derby -- unsurprisingly for a horse who takes only about two weeks to figure out each set of new code-words for 'walk' and 'canter' that we come up with -- got a gleam in his eyes as though he agreed.
In all, a good week!