And Teddy says, "In 2009 - may you always be the one who gets to lick the chocolate off the spatula."
(Yes, the saucepan was cold when I allowed her to lick the chocolate off the sides.)
I like to think I'm generally a pretty fast learner, but this week I'm feeling like an idiot. I've been struggling for months now with letting the reins slip. I've been using web reins with stops, and try as I might, even when I'm holding a stop in a death grip, Willow manages to pull the reins through my fingers, especially in canter. I've been thinking to myself, somewhat vaguely, "I guess I just need to strengthen my grip," and "Someday Willow will be lighter, and this won't be such a problem." And, of course, holding the reins in a death grip has been doing nothing for relaxation through my arms and hands.
So, late last week, I had the epiphany that you're probably all shouting at me through your screens: rubber reins! I visited Tack N Up and found standard web reins with stops, but they have rubber woven throughout. They're great because there's no added bulk. I also bought some extra-grippy gloves they had.
Five minutes into my first ride with my new equipment was when I realized what an idiot I've been. With no effort at all, I was able to maintain my rein length. After ten minutes Willow realized pulling the reins through my fingers was a no go, and she stopped trying. She was lighter and more put-together at the end of my ride, and my arms and hands were fatigue-free.
Think I'll get a second pair to use with the double bridle.
Now that it's full-on winter and the horses aren't getting out very reliably, I'm back in lunge-before-I-ride mode. Which means I'm also in full work-in-hand mode. I was starting to get a little frustrated at Willow blowing off my half halts, but I decided she really was getting herself all in a twist about me touching her with the whip. So I've been working on desensitization for the past week. I've been asking Willow to stand, and then touching her all over with the lunge whip. I've gotten to where I can lay the lash across her croup and ask her to walk, and she doesn't go into orbit. I also can now stand her by the wall and touch her with my work-in-hand whip, and I don't get eye-rolling panic. I want her to respect the whip, not fear it. I hope that this work will also lead to a little less mareishness about the whip under saddle.
I've shortened the side reins, and my new mission in life is to keep Willow from leaning on them. It's transitions, transitions, transitions. A few times this week, in the midst of a volley of walk-trot-canter-trot-walk-trot-canter transitions, Willow has offered walk-canter, pretty as a picture.
Due to holiday madness, my next lesson with Leslie won't be until January. I'm looking forward to it.