Since I am not a total killjoy, enjoy this little spook-graphic from Mary's Tack and Feed. It's perfect for the horse lover who likes halloween stuff but doesn't want to do the doorbell ringing part. Happy Halloween and see you all Monday!
This has been a very long, and staying with the season, scary past five days. We've been doing parent/teacher conferences all week. Insert blood curdling scream here. I am tired, cranky, and just need some peace and quiet.
I used to love Halloween, but after working with kids all day long, I find that I resent my doorbell being rung every twelve seconds by kiddos who want me to put down my glass of wine to give them candy. So, my husband and I boycott the festivities by going out for dinner or leaving town. This year, we're going to the cabin.
Since I am not a total killjoy, enjoy this little spook-graphic from Mary's Tack and Feed. It's perfect for the horse lover who likes halloween stuff but doesn't want to do the doorbell ringing part. Happy Halloween and see you all Monday!
Lecturing on a soap box is a bit arrogant unless you have something to say that people actually want to hear. Otherwise, you're just some weirdo spouting off cockamamie ideas that make people roll their eyes and cross the street to get away from your idiocy.
Knowing that, I am climbing up. You can roll your eyes and walk away, or you can gather and shout amen, sister! with the rest of the believers ... Dressage is incredibly hard. Showing dressage is even harder still.
After I finished my first test of the weekend, I left the arena feeling a bit grouchy and made that statement to my trainer. It's not that I resent doing things that are difficult. I thrive on demanding work. The more onerous, the better. Give me something that stretches me to my limit, and I am a happy camper. Weenie babies don't ride 100 miles through freezing cold temperatures in a single day. I did, more than a few times, and loved every minute of it.
What used to drive me nuts about endurance riding was all the people who would claim that they too were endurance riders. Whenever they were asked which endurance races they had done, they would claim that they just "conditioned" their horses in endurance saddles or had done 10 - 15 mile fun rides.
Sorry, simply using an endurance saddle to get your horse fit doesn't make you an endurance rider. You have to actually ride an endurance distance on a prescribed course under a vet's observation. And doing it more than once helps. That's what makes an endurance rider.
I am sure you can see where this is going.
As I finished that test and groused about this sport being difficult, what I really meant was that unless someone is actually showing at USDF-rated shows, they don't know how hard it really is to put it all together in front of a judge, make it look easy, and get a good score. It's hard, really hard.
When we ride at home, we can repeat the transition over and over. We can ride that figure twice until it feels balanced. If we're not ready for that canter departure at C, we circle back around and give it another go. Or, we pick it up at M. Who is going to notice the difference? At a show, the rider has to string all of the movements together without any do-overs.
That's what makes showing so hard. We don't get a second, third, or twelfth chance to get it just right. It has to be done correctly then and there, ready or not. So even if someone's horse has a few lovely flying changes at home, until they have to get five 4s from H to F with the third one landing at X, those changes don't mean much. And they mean even less if the rider can't follow it up with five 3s across the other diagonal. That was for Jen and her Prix St Georges test this weekend. Ask her if riding it correctly in front of a judge is easy or hard.
The thing about showing at a USDF-rated show is that the judges aren't cutting you any slack. It's not their job to make you feel good. It is their job to give you legitimate, honest, and helpful feedback. The judges at fun shows or schooling shows ARE there to encourage you and give you softball scores. That's their job. They're trying to get you to come back. They want you to feel good about showing so you'll pay your USDF money and help the sport grow.
I know many people will disagree with this viewpoint. Many riders feel that the judging at schooling shows is equal to that at USDF-rated shows. Maybe. I only show here in California, but I find it awfully difficult to believe that the L Program Graduates would change their style just because they live in another region of the US. The USDF and USEF work very hard to standardize judging around the country.
When I was still competing in endurance races, I loved those shorter distances for introducing a horse to his job. As a dressage rider, I've done many schooling shows for the same reason. There's no sense spending all that money on a USDF show until you know how your horse will deal with new venues, judges' booths, and the stresses of showing,
Until you can put it all together in front of a USEF judge at a USDF show, preferably one that holds his or her "S" license (Senior Judge), it might be best to hold off a bit on the celebration. Those USEF judges are tougher than they look.
So that's it. That's my rant. I am getting down from my soap box. What's your feeling on judging and scores?
Chemaine wasn't able to coach me on Sunday because she had a schooling show to attend with a different group of students. I am totally fine going to a show myself and wasn't fazed by her absence. Don't get me wrong - it's way more fun when she's there, but I've been hauling my horses to competitions for several decades on my own, so it's no big deal to fly solo.
As it was, she coached both me and another student on Friday and Saturday, so I was more than grateful for her time. She had other places to be. As a side note, that other student rode her very first Prix St. Georges test to earn a 63%. We were all really proud of her!
Chemaine's advice was to warm up with lots of half halts and then push Speedy for MORE! I am not always sure what we need MORE of, but I asked for it in the warm up.
He was ridiculously heavy on the left rein, so I did about 10,000 half halts followed by GO. I did every kind of transition within each gait that I could think of. My whole focus was to get a JUMP forward when I asked for it. When I asked for a half halt, I kept asking until he got soft, and then I sent him forward again with the expectation that he JUMP!
In all honesty, that warm up was a total crap shoot. Speedy and I probably looked like a pair of dorks zooming around the warm up only to halt a few strides later. GO!!!! STOP!!!! GO!!!! Fortunately it was a huge warm up ring and the show was small, so I had the space pretty much to myself. There was the Spanish guy galloping around, but he seemed to know what he was doing and proved quite adept at staying out of my way.
As we were warming up, all I could think about was just wanting to get the whole thing over with. I was tired and super ready to pack it up and head home. When First Level Test 2 was over, I left the ring shaking my head wondering what in the holy hell had just happened. It felt terrible. Speedy was so heavy in my hands that I was forced to jerk on him for every transition. I have no photographic or video evidence of this, which is why it's hard to believe the score we earned.
How is it that we scored better on Sunday than we had on Saturday? The judge gave us a 66.093%. For an Adult Amateur, that's a pretty solid score and one that I'll never turn my nose at. The only thing that I can say is those half halts must have done something, and that feeling of being nearly out of control is one that I should probably start trying to repeat.
My First Level Test 3 ride was just a few minutes after what I was considering "The Disaster" of test 2. There wasn't time to check the scores between the two rides, so I didn't know that the judge had actually "liked" our attempt at test 2. If I had been wanting to get test 2 over and done with, the desire to fast forward past test 3 was almost enough to make me want to scratch.
I am too cheap to throw in the towel though, so unless the TD or judge force me to quit, I am riding no matter how bad I think it's going to go. When I halted and saluted at X for the final time of the weekend, I thanked the judge like I always do, and then told her how happy I was to be done with THAT.
I patted Speedy's neck like I do after every ride, but I shook my head in frustration. How disappointing to work so hard for so little reward. That's what was going through my head as we passed by A. Up in the barn, several people complimented my rides, which I found slightly embarrassing. I was certain both scores were in the 57% range.
I finally stiffened my backbone and trudged over to the show office. I ran my finger down the list of rides squinting through half closed eyes. When I got to the first score from test 2, I did a double take. A what?!?! I shook my head in disbelief. But there it was for all the world to see - a 66.093%. I slid my finger down a bit further and saw the score for test 3. Not only was it slightly higher than Saturday's score at 62.794%, I had actually outscored another rider for a fourth blue ribbon.
Over the course of the weekend, Speedy and I somehow managed to bring home four very satisfactory scores. I am always grateful to break 60%, and the truth is most of my scores are above 60. Anything lower feels like a miss. As time goes on though, I have come to recognize that we are capable of high 60s and low 70s, so just eking out a 60% is not exactly a win anymore.
The judge said it best on my final test:
Nice horse with ability to perform much better. You must get him more forward and correctly into the contact so he accepts the bit and energy travels through the back. Only then will half halts work, and he will start to carry instead of fall on his forehand. - Sue Kolstad, Judge at C
No judge has ever written a better summation of my test. She absolutely nailed it. Chemaine has her work cut out for her to be sure. I think all three of us are up to the challenge though.
I still have some soapbox stuff I want to share, so there's a bit more coming about the show. In the meantime, what's your cut off score for an acceptable ride?
I've been a fan of Audrey Hepburn's Eliza Doolittle since I first saw My Fair Lady as a kid. I love everything about the movie - Eliza's dresses, the music (oh, the music!), and that great horse racing scene where you don't see the horses but you hear them thundering past. Eliza very coarsely hollers out that infamous line, "Come on, Dover! Move your bloomin' arse!"
While I was watching our First Level Test 3 video from Saturday, I found myself urging Speedy on. Come on dude, move your bloomin' arse! As we rode, it felt like Speedy was zooming through the test. Boy, was I wrong. It looks like he's stuck in molasses. No wonder we earned our lowest score of the weekend on that test.
It's quite a steady ride, but there is nothing special happening. There is no energy, no impulsion ... nothing but quiet and submission (most of the time). That's great if you want scores in the low 60s, which is what I got - 62.500%. Chemaine reminded me that to get scores in the high 60s or 70s, I need to channel the nearly out of control so that it looks controlled. That's when we'll score higher.
I liked how this ride felt, but it seems that I need to develop a different type of feel for what is a good ride. I know they call it positive tension. Izzy has it all the time even though it wavers between out of control and ooh baby. It might be that Speedy just doesn't really have the personality, or work ethic, for that kind of energy. I am going to have to learn to get Speedy ramped up at least a little more and then channel that new energy.
I don't think this was a bad or disappointing ride; we actually outscored the second rider in the class. Right now, breaking 60% at First Level is my goal, but by spring, I want to be consistently scoring in the mid to high 60s, especially if I want to move to 2nd Level by late summer.
I know that our move through the levels (Intro and Training) looked just like this. We slowly built from high 50s to high 60s with a few bobbles here and there. And it has been quite characteristic for us to start scoring well at Test 2 before Test 3, which is exactly what we did this weekend.
I don't have media from Sunday, but I'll share our rides from day two tomorrow as my scores didn't turn out the way I expected. I think there's a lesson in there for me somewhere.
Goals met, even exceeded, but I have no idea how.
The only ride that I thought went quite well was Saturday's First Level Test 3, but that ride earned us our lowest score of the weekend, a 62.500%.
On Friday evening, I had a warm up lesson with Chemaine. We worked on the canter lengthening and the trot lengthening, neither of which got any kind of decent score on the tests. The warm up was still productive however since I was able to work Speedy through the spooky corners so that by Saturday, the ring was a non-issue.
We warmed up on Saturday morning like we also do. Having Chemaine there to coach us was reassuring. I wasn't anxious or nervous though, and in fact, I decided not to use Chemaine as reader. She wasn't going to be able to coach me on Sunday, so I memorized the tests like I should have done already this season.
Speedy was heavy, heavy, heavy the whole weekend. In the video below, you can see non-stop head wagging which is so frustrating. This is something from several years ago that has resurfaced. I know it has to do with my ineffective half halts, and I've made Chemaine promise that we're going to be addressing that at our next next lesson.
Normally, after a two-day show, I have oodles of take aways to share. For this show, only a few things stand out.
Here's the score sheet from the first test of the weekend.
We scored a whopping 65% for Saturday's First Level Test 2. My goal was to break 60% so that I could earn my USDF First Level Rider Performance Award. I guess I hit that one out of the park.
I knew I would be the only rider in the class, so I had already expected the blue ribbon. When I went to the show office to pick up my score sheet, I gave a little "Ooh!" at the ribbon laying on my test. They were much nicer than the average ribbon. Earning four of them didn't break my heart one little bit.
I do have some very interesting "soapbox" things I want to share later this week as well as some statistical analysis of all of the show's scores, not just my own. Chemaine was able to video Test 3, so I'll share that tomorrow.
More to follow!
I bet you are all so relieved I am not still going on about this past weekend's casual clinic again! Just to give you all a little break, I'll be at a show this weekend, so I won't be posting again until Monday.
Speaking of the show ...
I printed out my day sheets and updated my stall sign and then started to do a little research. A few months ago, a friend asked how I thought I would do at the RAAC - had I checked out the competition? To be honest, it had never occurred to me to do that before. In California, there are so many riders at Training and First Level that there is no way I can remember who tends to get which scores.
Since then though, I have been looking up the riders against whom I am competing. It's not that I am competitive enough to change what I am doing in hopes of besting them, but it is fun to see whether I have a chance at a ribbon or whether I am looking at a butt kicking.
For my first test of the morning, I am getting a blue ribbon as long as I don't get eliminated, which has yet to happen, but there is always a first time. In my second test, I know I am getting at the very least a red ribbon as there only two riders in my class.
I apologize in advance, Mary, but I looked you up on Centerline Scores. Mary may well be an awesome rider, but I am feeling like I have a chance to leave the ring with a blue ribbon. Mary only started showing at USDF shows this year and has yet to ride a First Level test at a USDF show. Of course, she might have done a million schooling shows at Grand Prix for all I know, but chances are she and I are pretty much at the same level in our riding and schooling.
"Winning" a class is always nice, but I'd rather break 60% and walk away away with that red ribbon than get the blue with a 59%. And since I am really more about besting my own previous scores, I truly wish Mary nothing but the best of luck. High Sierra might be an up and coming future Olympian and I'll be able to say I rode with her.
When I saw the schedule for Sunday, I was a wee bit disappointed to see that my competition is obviously farther along in her training than I am. When a rider competes in two levels on the same horse, the score in the lower level class should be pretty darned good.
I apologize to Myra as well because I also looked up her record on Centerline Scores. I am so glad I did because I had pretty much pinned that blue ribbon on El Santo's bridle without giving Speedy G a chance to show off how awesome he is.
Myra has only shown at one USDF show, and that was this past February. She showed First Level Tests One and Two, and is now making the leap to Second. The horse she was listed as riding is not El Santo, but Merlin. I did a quick search for El Santo, but there isn't a show record for a horse with that name. Myra's limited USDF show record doesn't necessarily mean a whole lot as she could be a world class rider who has just preferred schooling shows over rated ones.
Knowing something about my competitors gives me some confidence. It's hard to know I'm riding against someone who consistently scores in the 70s at levels above where I am currently riding, but the opposite is also true. When I discover that the ladies I am competing against are at a similar place in their own training, I feel like it is game on.
I am really looking forward to this show. Chemaine will be able to give me a lesson the evening before, and she's coaching me through my warm up on Saturday. I will probably be on my own for Sunday, but I can handle it.
Have a great weekend, and I'll see you all on Monday!
Last one - I swear!
While Izzy was still sore for Sunday, he did look marginally better. I am not happy that he's still sore, in fact, I am fighting panic about it, but then I give myself a firm shake and remind myself that it's only been two weeks. If it truly is a bruise, it might take more than a month to heal. When Izzy fell on me a month or so ago, I hurt my wrist and thumb. It still hurts when I press on it with even mild pressure. It doesn't mean I am broken for life. It just needs more time to heal.
You can see the lameness in the video. It's worse when the circles are small or he pivots on the left front leg. Going straight, he's nearly sound, and to the right I can't even feel it. Chemaine kept this in mind as she schooled us. She even reminded ME a few times to keep him straighter to the left so he doesn't have to bear as much weight on the left leg.
We mostly picked up where we had left off the day before - installing a half halt. I warmed up with a walk to halt to walk and then I moved on to the trot to walk. Quickly into the ride, Chemaine had me trotting the long sides of the arena doing the change the bend, half halt, change the bend, half halt.
I like this exercise for Izzy because it is very simple. There's nothing about my weight aids or my imbalances to confuse him. And rather than just trying to work on being round, it gives him a lot more to think about. And the best effect of this exercise is that it make him feel good. As he changes the bend, his body starts to relax so the work feels good - like stretching makes me feel.
We next repeated the previous day's work at the canter. Once again, Chemaine had me leg yield to the corner so that I could put Izzy solidly on the outside rein as I asked for a canter. He decided that he wanted nothing to do with that. He did canter, but then he galloped straight ahead and flat out refused to turn left.
I had this problem with Sydney, and frankly, I got pretty effective with my outside rein. Izzy has been trying this for the last month or so. I eventually started carrying the whip and would whack his shoulder when he reused to turn. That seemed to fix the problem. I then traded the whip for baby spurs, and things were going great. And then on Sunday, they weren't going great at all.
Chemaine had me physically haul his head around to the left to pull him into the circle while half halting with my outside rein. All that happened was that he galloped down the fence line folded in half. Then she had me pull his head around and kick as hard as I could with my inside leg. All that did was exhaust me.
Instead of obviously blowing through the outside shoulder, Izzy found a way to do it subtly by refusing to move his haunches out. I know it's hard to picture, but he let me turn the front half of his body left for the turn, but the back half of his body kept propelling straight.
After a half a dozen tries to kick his haunches around, I called for a whip. We picked up the canter, I said turn left, and then I smacked the inside of his haunches HARD HARD HARD until he whirled around. I patted his neck and did it again. The second time, he did the same thing, so I smacked him repeatedly until he finally spun his haunches to the outside. The third time I asked for the left turn, I had to smack him hard, but he actually made the turn without galloping down the arena.
The forth time we picked up the canter, Chemaine told me to hold the whip quietly without smacking him. And guess what? Izzy decided to make the turn. We quit the lesson on that effort.
Unlike Sydney, who simply checked out and bolted out of tension, Izzy is very smart and always thinking. When he gets an idea, he likes to try it a few times to see if it will work for him. Cantering in a frame is work, and he's not a huge fan of work.
I may have to use the whip agin to remind him that he can make the circle, but he's proven to me time and time again that once he learns something, it sticks. I m looking forward to being able to ride a sound horse, so it might be a few more weeks before we're back on a regular riding schedule.
Our next clinic is planned for November 22nd. Anyone interested in coming?
I know this (maybe) quits being interesting after one or two write-ups, but it is so helpful for me to break down the lessons with photos and videos. I won't be offended if you skip reading; I get it - boring! Chemaine is just so good at filling you to the brim with information that it can take days to sort through all of it.
When Chemaine videos my lessons, she uses what she records as a way to leave me with an instructional video that I can watch later. She deliberately narrates so that I get two lessons for the price of one - one while I am riding, and then a second for later.
If you read Monday's post, you saw that we improved our leg yields from the previous month. I had no idea that we would make them even better on Sunday, but we did. Once Speedy understood that he couldn't get away from the left rein, he started digging deep and making those leg yields work for him.
The leg yield at First Level, Test 3 goes from one corner to x and then back to the rail at the next corner. I call it a zig zag. You can see in the video that it goes pretty well, but as we're leg yielding to the right, Speedy's haunches are to the left, which is where they should be.
What I didn't realize is that this movement is much like trotting a figure of eight. The horse needs a stride or two to get his body straight before changing the bend. I've been riding this leg yield without that straightening moment. What happens as a result is that when I change the bend and leg yield to the left, his haunches are now leading.
To fix this, Chemaine had me do the leg yield with the outside (right) rein locked down which keeps Speedy's outside shoulder in place. Just before X, I need to get him straight again so that I can change the bend and leg yield him to the left. This means that I need to open the outside (left) rein so that I can move his shoulder in front of his hind end so that the hind end is not leading. It's the opposite problem of the shoulder leading.
You can see in the video that Chemaine has us build up to the movement in First Level Test 3 by simply leg yielding to the quarter line. While leg yielding from K to X to H is not "that" hard, it's made much more difficult in a short court because the horse has a lot less room to get to X than in a standard court. When we do it this weekend in a full length court, it's going to feel like I have miles to get the job done.
Speedy can cross over pretty deeply, but it's not yet really rhythmical or consistent. To help get a better quality leg yield, Chemaine had me think about really shortening his stride in front. Doing so gives him time to get his hind end over without his front end running off. He also seemed to have much better rhythm when I shortened his stride.
Here's the actual movement from K to X to H.
The next thing we worked on was the 10-meter circles. For the most part we've scored pretty well on these, but as always, Chemaine knows how to make the task easier for both of us.
As we come out of the corner at M, Chemaine instructed me to do a shoulder in as we come to the 10-meter circle at R. This gets Speedy thinking about bending so that the 10-meter circle isn't so abrupt. As we finish the 10-meter circle and continue down the rail to B, she had me maintain the shoulder in for the right turn. After the halt at X, we need to turn left down the rail again with a shoulder in as we prepare for the second 10-meter circle at V. If we maintain the shoulder in, our corner should also ride much more smoothly.
To wrap up the day, Chemaine had me do some canter work. We did some more canter lengthenings (YouTube video here), and as with the 10-meter circles, she had me ride the lengthening with s shoulder in to keep him on my outside rein.
We also worked on the one loop canter from First Level, Test 3. That movement has gotten easier and easier, but Chemaine saw a way to help me keep Speedy better balanced after the top of the loop. The top of the loop rides in counter canter so the horse is bent in the opposite direction which means it's easy to lose control of the haunches and over-shoot X.
As we crossed X, Chemaine reminded me to keep my outside leg back so that I could use it to almost pivot his hind end around to keep us heading back to the rail rather than the other side of the ring. I was surprised at how much easier the canter rode by sending his haunches to X.
Here's a short video of that movement.
We're going to a two-day USDF show this weekend, so I hope I can remember all of this. Chemaine put it pretty simply though ...
One of the best things about clinics is the opportunity to see other riders working through their own issues. I didn't get to spend a lot of time watching since I was riding two horses, but it was so much fun to have other people at the barn.
It was also a great experience for Izzy. When they all showed up last month, he spent the day vibrating with excitement. He bucked and played all day long. This time, he stood at the fence and just watched without all of the theatrics.
Izzy is still a little sore on a front foot, so even though he was a little uneven, I rode him anyway. Chemaine has an excellent eye though and felt that he actually looked better the longer he rode. One of Izzy's "things" is going to be tension. When he gets tense, he's going to look lame even when there is nothing wrong. So once he relaxed and forgot about his foot hurting, he traveled very nearly sound.
Edyta again took a slew of lovely pictures which amazes me because Izzy felt like a hot mess the entire ride. I am happy that he looks so good because it means that maybe we present a better picture than it feels like we do.
Chemaine had some excellent ideas for working on a horse who is a bit ouchy. Her plan was to get him focused on working without reminding him that he has a stubbed toe. We did a lot of the work at the walk where he is 100% sound.
The first exercise was simply to walk on a circle, halting every few strides. The point of the exercise was to teach him in really simple terms that he needs to be listening for a half halt. I put him in a walk, went a few strides, and then asked for a halt. Ideally, he should stop right away, but I was allowed to give three to five strides to make it happen. If he didn't stop, I used the reins hard to say STOP! I then reorganized him and sent him walking again.
Once he was halting pretty consistently, we bumped up the gait to a slow jog and did the same thing. We jogged a few strides and then asked for a walk, jogged a few strides, and asked for a walk. Again, the purpose was to get him wondering when a half halt was coming.
This was actually hard work for him. Within a short time, he was breathing pretty heavily, but his focus improved with every half halt, and his foot hurt less and less.
The third part of this exercise was to leave the circle and move to the long sides. As we jogged down the long side, Chemaine had me half halt and then change bend, half halt, and change the bend, half halt and change the bend. We stayed on the rail and jogged around the court half halting and bending and then changed direction.
I was delighted with how supple he got through his withers and neck and poll. He got lighter in the bridle and let me move his shoulders around.
When he was finally relaxed and focused, we moved on to the canter work. Or, we tried to. Immediately, Izzy's tension returned, so Chemaine had me put him back on the circle where we trotted and asked for a half halt over and over. It worked like a charm. He lost the frantic tension, his eyes got a bit softer, and he was ready to listen.
Chemaine had me trot Izzy down centerline, leg yielding to the rail to put him on the outside rein. Then she had me ever so quietly give the canter cue in the corner. I would like to say that he just stepped into a lovely, uphill canter, but he didn't. He will eventually, but it's still a tense transition.
I love these exercises though and know that this slow and methodical approach to installing a half halt will serve us well. If the weather doesn't get too crazy over the next month, we should be riding with Chemaine again before Thanksgiving. We'll definitely be using these exercises until then.
Once again I was able to ride twice on both days so there is more tomorrow!
We enjoyed another weekend of dressage lessons with Chemaine Hurtado. Everyone who rode thanked me for bringing her here. It wasn't that they were thanking me for any special action on my part. Instead, they were expressing their gratitude at having the opportunity to ride with a trainer who is so enthusiastic, encouraging, and knowledgeable.
Chemaine helps you bring out the very best in your horse, and she does it in a way that you can replicate once you're on your own. She makes sure that you leave the ring feeling confident about at least one thing. Not all trainers do that, and since we live in the Great Dressage Desert, finding one who can give you those tools is truly like stumbling upon a refreshing spring in an oasis.
I wanted to leave the day feeling confident about two things, the leg yields and the trot lengthenings. While neither of the movements are going to be getting us 8s anytime soon, the quality of the movements is improving.
When I saw Chemaine last month, we started building the foundation for a better leg yield. Speedy's issue is that he wants to lead with the outside shoulder, particularly to the left, and brace his head, neck, and shoulders while trailing his haunches. The first step to fixing this was to get that shoulder under control. So last month, we started doing the leg yield with Speedy being slightly counter bent rather than having a slight inside bend
That worked pretty well. Being counter bent helped me slow down his outside shoulder so that his haunches could keep up with his front end. You can see an example in the video below. We lost it at the end, but at least we got the legs crossing over, and the shoulder wasn't leading.
Now that I have a bit more control of Speedy's shoulders, Chemaine wants us to add another layer on our foundation. Instead of counter bending him, I am now going to "lock down" my outside hand while playing with the inside rein. He'll be straight, but this will serve to keep his shoulder from leading while asking for a little softness. This is really important to the left, the side we struggle with the most. To the right, he'll give me a lot more inside bend. While still not perfect, you can see how much better he got in the next video.
After a lot of time working the leg yield, we played around with lengthening the canter and then did those changes of bend at the canter in preparation for the change of lead through trot. The only suggestion that Chemaine made was that I needed much stronger half halts. When Speedy wasn't listening, she wanted a half halt strong enough to get him to walk.
She was right of course, when I use the half halt more consistently, his canter gets more collected and straighter because he quits falling out on the outside shoulder.
Here's a short clip that combines a small amount of canter lengthening, stronger half halts, and the change of bend that comes before the change of lead through trot.
We have a lot to work on, but I don't let it discourage me. I like focusing on just one or two things at a time. I recognize that at some point we need to help Speedy raise his poll, he gets too round, and Chemaine sees it too. There are times when she'll help me focus on that part of our work, but to try and fix everything all at once would overwhelm and discourage me and irritate the heck out of my horse.
For now, I am happy to finish my rides having had one or two really good moments. And if my horse feels good about what he did, it's even better. Morgan caught Speedy's face as we walked out of the ring. He looks pretty satisfied with the work that he did!