The goal of todays ride was to continue practicing what we have been working on all week - getting her down on the bit. We started out same as always - loose rein to warm up. I also wanted today to be a little bit of a fitness day since I had so much time. I spent about 10 minutes walking and trotting on a loose rein before I started to ask her to really work.
I decided to switch her bit again today back to the slow twist snaffle, because it gives a little more control, especially for the woman coming out to try her. As I began asking her to work, I shortened up my reins, started playing with her mouth a bit, and used my leg to encourage engagement from her hind end into my hand. The result was amazing. By the end of the ride she was consistently working around the ring at the walk and trot, engaged and on the bit. When she rounded her back I felt like I was on a 16h warmblood! Her working trot turned into a trot with tons of suspension and lift, and the best part was that her ears were up the entire time! The harder I ask her to work, the happier she is. She thrives on learning new things, and keeping things changing.
Every single time she responded to my questions, I released the reins a bit and told her, "GOOD PONY! WHAT A GOOD GIRL!" I think I'm one of those people who feels the need to reward a horse verbally for their successes. It has definitely worked with her as every time I tell her how great she pricks her ears, and if we are walking she will turn her head and look at me so I can pat her head. The neighbors can probably hear my praises all the way from their house!
At the canter when I asked her to engage she got a little bit heavy, but I think with more practice she will learn to rely on her hind end rather than my hand to find her balance. That is part of the reason I waited so long to begin asking for this kind of engagement. Its more important for her to moving from behind and engaging her hindquarters then for me to package her up in a frame. Both pieces have to be there to have success, but the first is more important and more fundamental than the second.
Each day, even on bad days, my heart just fills up whenever I work with Zena. She is so talented and has such a fabulous work ethic that I know she is going to be so successful. I can't wait to find that person who will take her as far as she can go, I know it will be far!