The construction on the outdoor arena has been done for several weeks, but one thing or another has kept me from using it. Today Willow and I finally schooled in it. To get there, you follow a little path through a woody area. It's very secluded from the rest of the property. Willow had the snorties at first, so I had hand-walked her around the arena a few times until she settled. Then I mounted up, and off we went.
Willow sure does love to work outside. Her gaits were big and bouncy. We're still working our up-and-out-with-the-inside-rein exercises, and she felt great. My web reins have stops, and we're now easily working at a stop I was beginning to think we'd never get to! And I've been sneaking past it, too. To the right, she felt awesome, especially the canter. Y'all will be happy to hear we executed several balanced ten-meter canter circles to the right!
Working on the shorter reins to the left has exposed a lack of straightness on that rein. Once upon a time, I would have found that frustrating, but nowadays I'm always happy to discover the truth, so to speak. What's been happening is Willow doesn't want to step far under herself with the left hind (too hard!), so she tries to either go on the circle in travers, or else she swings her haunches wildly outside and tries to leg yield out of the circle, or else she canters.
After it happened the first few times, I had to stop and think about what was going on. I was pretty sure she was just trying to get out of something that felt hard for her. So, first of all, I kept very aware of how long I was working her on the left, and made sure to give her plenty of breaks. When she'd swing her haunches inside or outside in trot, I'd go to low and even on both reins and push her forward on a twenty-meter circle with almost no bend. If she cantered, I'd push her very forward in canter. I think I'm on the right track with these fixes, because the crookedness is cropping up less and less. Today in the outdoor she only tried her left-side shenanigans twice.
A big benefit to working in the outdoor is the awesome new footing. It's a sand mix, and it does make them work. I could hear Willow puffing more than once.
When we finished, I rinsed her off (for the last time this year? maybe), banged her tail, and went to town on her overgrown mane. I took it down to about three inches, and it looks very nice.
On my way home, I stopped by a friend's acreage. She's out of town for two weeks, and she told me to harvest her vegetable garden as much as I wanted. I think I picked thirty or forty pounds of tomatoes today. I blanched and froze seven quarts, and will take the rest to work to share.