She started out by checking all of the things that we've worked on: did he move off her leg? Yes, with spurs. How was his whoa! Pretty good. Did he soften? Not too bad. As she rode, she talked me through what she was doing. When she found a little stickiness, she rocked the rein until Speedy was light and responsive. Sometimes she had to use the pulley halt to let him know that he couldn't hang on her.
JL discovered that Speedy wants to be really light. The problem is that he doesn't want to move his hind end. The spurs got his butt going, which allowed him to lighten up in front. She also discovered that the rider has to be very, very consistent with him and NOT let him hang for even an instant. Once he knows where he needs to be, consistency will keep him light.
Then she worked on the canter. There was improvement right away: no bucking, no kicking out. It wasn't the prettiest canter departure, but it was much improved. JL's feeling was that I was using way too much leg and it was pissing him off.
For the last half of the lesson, I got on. Man, oh, man was he soft! He moved so nicely off my leg, and he stayed really light up front. We worked on the right lead canter as well. Again, it wasn't great, but we were able to get a few departures that didn't involve launching me to the moon.
I went back for a follow-up lesson on Wednesday. When I came home, I told Hubby that I need lessons twice a week. It was so effective to follow up two days later. Two-a-week isn't likely to happen any time soon, so I'll just have to appreciate what happened this week.
Any way ...
We started the lesson working to the right and worked on establishing softness. With spurs on, Speedy was listening to my leg right away. We did lots of moving sideways to help soften him. When needed, I rocked the rein. I couldn't believe how much lighter and softer he was. If he's not light and soft, I am not to canter him. If he's sticky up front, my job is to unstick him. That might mean rocking the rein, or doing a pulley halt.
Once JL and I felt that he was soft up front, she asked me to canter left. He exploded forward like a rocket. Damn. Where did that come from? JL kept telling me to use less leg, and I kept saying that I hadn't used ANY leg.
JL: you didn't use any leg?
We repeated the exercise, and each time, the same thing happened: from rising trot, I sat a stride and then ... whamo! Explosive launch forward. After a half dozen attempts, JL finally saw my mistake. When I sat before the canter departure, I was sitting down DEEP and PUSHING.
We gave it a little test. She instructed me to do a rising trot and then sit for a bit and then return to rising trot. Sure enough, the second I sat, Speedy tried to launch forward into a gallop.
The problem has been mine all along. (No surprise there.) I was sitting much too deeply which is the cue for GO FASTER! We spent some time just working on my sitting trot. We went round and round first at the rising trot and then at the sitting trot until Speedy quit trying to gallop when he felt me sit.
It was then that I was able to really start working on the canter departure. I went from rising trot to a soft, sitting trot and slooooowly put my leg on. We cantered a pretty decent circle. Not beautiful, but not explosive either.
To the right, we did much the same thing, except that I had to first get him straight before asking for the canter. Speedy wants to carry all of his weight on his right hind which allows him to kick with the left. JL had me ride a square where I pushed his left leg back under himself so that he had to carry more weight on the left hind. Again, the canter departures weren't great, but they were much improved.
The most amazing thing happened during this lesson. All of the individual parts started to stand out on their own. I felt like I was riding in slow motion. I could finally feel his hind end moving. As we were trying to get the canter departure, I could feel each hind leg trying to "get it." JL kept telling me to be patient, and wait for it. I finally understood what she meant. As I sat softly, I was telling him that something was coming. He started to listen. I rested my leg on his side, and then very slowly added pressure until he was sure that I really wanted to canter. And then he did.
It was the best lesson we've ever had.