Good things are happening with Willow! Although as I predicted, my stomach muscles are complaining bitterly. I've increased the contact in front, and doubled the driving from my seat to compensate. I thought I might get some real resistance from Willow, but she actually felt more content rather than less. I'm getting some great, definite half halts, too.
Before I bought Willow, I had the great fortune to lease a PSG schoolmaster named Aron for eighteen months. Aron rocked my world!
I learned so much from this lovely old guy. To get a left lead canter pirouette, you did the following: 1) half halt, 2) look over your left shoulder. That's it! That's how fantastic Aron is. He doesn't just give you a connection, though. It took eight months for me to really find it, and even then it would come and go. He liked to float just a little behind the bit and say, "If you don't bother me, I won't bother you." He lulls you into thinking the bridge is there, when it isn't. And he can do the tricks even when he isn't through, but he generally goes above the bit.
My point, and I do have one, is that Willow is the exact opposite kind of feeling. She never curls behind the bit, and she likes to have a strong contact. I can get a light feeling from her if I let her carry her neck low, and I've been letting her lull me into thinking that this light contact is a good thing. Well, sure, if we want to stay at first level forever!
So my epiphany came in the past week: Aron is at one end of the spectrum, Willow is at the other, but the end goal is the same: a strong, breathing contact. And even though their issues are opposite, the fix is the same: drive more to get that engine going in back. How is it that dressage can be so ridiculously complicated and yet so simple, all at the same time?
The past two nights I've felt some really thrilling moments in trot and canter, and Willow is more focused and seems to be enjoying the work. Next challenge: learning to sit this monster trot I've created . . .