I did a quick warm-up to the left - some trot work, a quiet canter, a big hand gallop, back to the trot, and finally a trot/walk transition. While we need to improve the quality of all of that, at least the buttons are there. I was eager to work going to the right. I particularly wanted to work on trot to canter transitions.
Six months ago, getting a single right lead canter departure without a whirl and a bolt would have been amazing, so I am kind of shaking my head in disbelief as I write this. I wanted to work on multiple canter departures? Sometimes I feel as though we're never going to get anywhere, but then we have a breakthrough, and we're off to the next problem. Once we get this right lead canter solidly in place, we're going to be able to work on some really fun stuff!
Fortunately, Sydney was looking for ways to be spooky, but in his defense, some of the things he spooked at were scary, like the kid and dad who came racing down the road on their bicycles at Mach 10. They were loud, unexpected, and even made me jump. The red truck backing out of the driveway was not spook-worthy, and neither was the little girl getting into the car with mom and aunt. Each of these incidents gave me the opportunity to work with heavy, rushing, anxious Sydney.
We didn't get to do as many canter departures as I was hoping for, but I got to spend a lot of time holding Sydney to a rhythm without pulling back even though he was a freight train in my hands. I am realizing that it's more a sensation of being very heavy in my hands rather than trying to run off. Pulling back isn't going to lighten him up. Teaching him to hold himself up is what will fix the problem.
JL had me work on two exercises: send him sideways with my inside leg (we worked on that last week), and softened him off the outside rein with my outside leg. The second exercise, not exactly new, helped fix a slew of different problems.
Sending him sideways really works when he wants to fall in and spin around my inside leg. But what I discovered is that once he's going sideways, he gets over-bent, and I have nothing left to push on. JL's solution to that was to then use my outside leg at his shoulder to push his shoulders back in line with his body. This gave me something new to push against with my inside leg.
It's a little like moving a soccer ball down the field; you tap it with your right foot, but correct with your left to keep it moving straight down the field. As we tracked right, I used my inside leg to push him out, but once he was over-bent, I straightened him back up with outside leg. It was amazing to feel how quickly he lightened up off my outside rein.
So this is my new homework: move him sideways without using my hands at all, and then adjust and correct his shoulders with my outside leg to lighten him off my outside rein.
Before he knows it, Sydney is going to be a real dressage horse!