January's ride with Trainer Lady had us working on actually moving forward onto the bit, which we haven't done at all during our winter toodles. We made a lot of progress toward this goal, but it was unfortunately accompanied by some backward movement in the area of downward transitions and halting.
This has required me to work a lot on consistency of my aids and creating mutual expectations of moving forward and listening to seat cues at the same time. It has required having more bareback rides in the mix to ensure totally clear communication as we address this issue again. It has required some rides where I struggle to maintain a neutral mental and emotional space. It has required me to acknowledge when I can't be the fair rider Shuga expects and deserves, and to not ride during those times.
This week we finally started seeing some forward progress again, which is exciting for more than one reason. Of course it's very gratifying to finally be getting back to where we're "supposed" to be, but there's more to it than that for me. I am pleased with how well I have managed to be the rider and leader that Shuga has needed through this past month. I have not avoided impatience and frustration completely, but the fact that we are already getting "back on track" is a sure sign of unbroken partnership.
At the end of the day, keeping a strong relationship is the most important thing to me as an adult amateur equestrian, and I believe that right now we are succeeding in that goal.