Isn't that one of the eternal dressage questions? When the horse acts up, is she saying, "I won't," or "I can't"? (Some horses are saying, "Screw you," but I'm lucky that with Willow that's really never the case.)
The last eight weeks have been all about playing with rein length while maintaining straightness and impulsion. (An interesting aside: Impulsion comes before straightness on the training scale, but Wolfgang always questioned the order, because you can't have true impulsion without first having straightness. That is, if the horse is traveling akimbo, any "impulsion" created escapes.) So, in other words, Willow and I have been working on shortening the frame without losing the forward, riding front to back being a cardinal sin.
Some days Willow is quite willing to stay relaxed on a shorter rein, and other days it causes varying levels of tightness and unhappiness. Which brings me back to my original question. This is where having an experienced trainer is so helpful. I'm struggling with figuring out just how hard to push when Willow lodges a complaint. If the complaint translates as "I won't," pushing is the right thing to do. But if she's saying "I can't," pushing is very much the wrong thing to do.
When I bought Willow, I figured I could bring her along to around second level on my own, but then I'd need help. Looks like my prediction was spot on. So, starting in the next couple of weeks, I'll be taking a lesson every other week from Leslie, the assistant trainer at my barn. I'm quite excited to start getting regular feedback again. I'm also excited to get to see someone else ride Willow!