I had a super lesson today.
Since she's been in such a good mood working lately, and not fighting my contact, I decided we would try to use the fork again today.
Success! She walked off a little tense and then realized that it wasn't restricting her and she was fine. That may be the one thing I am glad Bob advised me to do, because it is a great tool. If she inverts her neck and throws her head up, it's an instant, but still gentle correction. She trotted and cantered in it nicely.
She really, really started to get back to where we once were today. In fact, I think we had moments where we were even better.
Casey said she's moving better than she's ever seen her move, and I am SO happy to hear that. I've kind of felt like we accomplished nothing over the last year due to so many setbacks, but if I really think about it, we have. She isn't hard to keep on the rail now. She is much more responsive to my seat, leg and hands. She works more correctly through her back. Her gaits are all more balanced and she has more impulsion.
Casey wanted us to work on walk-canter transitions. I was going to hold off a couple of months, but Casey thought we were ready to start working on them. I think it confused her the first few times, but the last one she got her canter within 2 strides. Her canters were great today. The only times she fell out were when I stopped asking her to move forward with my seat - she will transition up or down in a heartbeat from nothing but my seat, so it's something I have to be conscious of or I will ask for something without meaning to. We did more two-point than I've done in a while. My back was screaming, but I really need to do it more if I intend to jump because my muscles are non-existent for that.
We did jump a little x-rail at a trot 3 or 4 times. She was super lazy over it, but I'm pretty sure she was just tired from the hard work she did in the rest of the lesson. So Casey had me work on driving her forward into a big trot over it, and of course my biggest problem, not looking at the jump. I look down way too much, and definitely got called out on it today! In fact, I got called out on a lotttt of bad habits that I've developed while riding alone.
So lessons are definitely going to be a regular thing now. I need someone to pick me apart and tell me what they see me doing that I might not feel or notice in the saddle.
Amber barely sweated during the lesson, never really got too heavy in her breathing, and it was warmish out. Stamina is definitely improving, and I can see her shoulder and hind end are toning up.
She isn't trying to break to canter in the trot anymore either - very consistent. No toe dragging under saddle either. She definitely does it in the pasture, but her hoof prints in the arena are showing no drag marks.
I hosed her legs and back and put liniment on them. I've been really adamant about making sure she doesn't get sore or pull anything while the intensity of her work increases. Her back seems less sore when I hoof-pick test it.