It's rides like tonight's that keep me at this crazy sport. I started the evening by raising the bit one hole. I've noticed Willow trying to snatch at it once in awhile lately; I think it was riding too low in her mouth. I know it was adjusted correctly at one point: I imagine the leather in the bridle has stretched out some in the two years since I bought it. Anyway, up went the bit just a tad.
Then I lunged Willow with the side reins about two inches shorter than I've ever had them before. I've been working at keeping Willow more up in front for several weeks now, so I figured she could handle a bit less freedom in front on the lunge. I got some spectacular work out of her! Twelve meter canter circles in self-carriage, and a few trot extensions where you almost see her shift down a gear. So cool.
And then, the ride. Lately I've been realizing that even though I think I have Willow on the outside rein, I really don't. She's popping the outside shoulder just enough to drag me to the outside, especially in canter. So I started on twenty meter circles, counter-flexing for a quarter circle every so often, then spiraling in and out. First in rising trot, then sitting. After about twenty minutes I got a magnificent sitting trot with huge swing through the back and a lovely even feeling between both reins. From that I asked for canter and got her best canter under saddle ever. No pulling, no hanging, and a big uphill depart. This is what a balanced canter feels like. Hurray!
I only worked her for half an hour under saddle because everything came together so well, and she was really giving me her all. After a final canter, I got a successful canter-walk transition (the first ever, actually) and called it a night. When I dismounted, I noticed Willow had foam absolutely running from her mouth. I guess I was right about the bit!
Ear phobia report: on the off side, it's all good. I can hold her ear even sans carrot. On the near side, carrots are still required, and there are intermittent brain freezes. One of these days I'm going to try to bridle her from the off side and see what happens.