I put Monkey and Majek back to work this week after a week off following the big show.
Majek was pretty wild the first day (I wisely decided to lunge him) but also started very tense and fresh the next day as well. He is a very tense horse in general, often reminding me of a thoroughbred (although he is holsteiner). He wanted to be very tight against the leg and short in the neck. I was able to work through it, although it took 15 minutes or so, mostly I have to remember to start with really small steps in the right direction. So I'll bend his neck and try to lengthen it, but it helps if I think to only do really tiny increments and build on those, not expect him to go from really tense to really long and loose. If I find those little improvements, where he gets just a tiny bit longer, then a tiny bit longer, etc, then I have a more solid foundation on which to build. That helps me to stay better connected as well. By the end he was quite good, very drivable and elastic feeling.
I had a lesson on Monkey today, after having ridden him the day before to get him going again. He's been absolutely nutty in turnout, a week off gives him way too much energy! I brought him in a few days ago and he was piaffing sideways down the barn aisle, snorting the entire way. He was good in my lesson, we worked on some very basic suppleness and straightness issues (like controlling the haunches in my turns, I tend to lose his haunches to the outside through corners) and keeping the shoulders in line with the haunches independent of flexions through the neck. Also making those flexions more subtle (so I don't lose the connection) but still effective, so he lets go in his back. We finished with some work on improving the medium trot by riding passage to medium trot to passage transitions. He has finally figured out the passage, it took him a little while to find the beat and push off the ground enough without just flattening and running. Now that he's found it, we try to use that to improve the cadence and engagement of the medium trot. It worked very well today.
Also of note I rode my 3 year old Dutch filly "Jazzy" last weekend when I was in Portland! Every time I go to Portland I work with her a little bit, generally some combination of lunging, basic ground work, desensitization to saddle pads, saddles, etc. I backed her lightly over Christmas (mom led me around), then went off the lunge line for the first time in January. So this February ride (I only did one) was her second ride off the lunge. I have to say, for only being ridden once a month, she was significantly better. She kind of steered this time, and had a much better (albeit very basic) understanding of the rein and leg. She was also much MUCH more relaxed about me influencing her this time, last time she was a more worried and tense. It was a little wierd how relaxed she was. I trotted several times. She has a very nice trot to ride, it has a very smooth, liquid-y feeling to it. You wouldn't think a horse would progress that well given the amount of time between rides, but she did.