We started out with some walking since JL wanted to see how well I could turn Sydney with just leg pressure. She was impressed. We've gotten quite adept at the turn on the haunches. I play the how little rein can I use game. When we're both really on, I can make the turn with little or no outside rein. He rolls across nicely on his haunches and carries himself through the turn. As he lifts his shoulders and rounds his back, the rein will go slack and I'll feel him lift me up and over. Lovely feeling.
As soon as JL asked for the same movement at trot, I brought Sydney to a complete halt and asked her to clarify. No, she didn't want a trot pirouette. Phew! No way that was happening. What she wanted was a trot where the inside feet transcribed a smaller circle than the outside feet. The circle could be as large as I wanted.
In truth, the point of the lesson was lost on me until near the end. What she really wanted me to do was make the turn using the outside aids, especially the outside leg. The shape of the figure we were making was like a hexagon: a circle with straight edges. What I was supposed to feel was a sideways movement around the circle with no inside bend. To the right was easy. On our first attempt we could just about trot the entire circle. To the left, the side he blows through at the canter, was HARD. At first, we could only trot a couple of steps before he locked up.
Once I understood the movement, I sat up and really engaged my seat and outside leg. Rather than applying constant pressure with my leg, I started to feel a rhythm in the movement. I started to rock him over which also required a left-right, left-right rock of the reins. We were finally able to make a nearly complete circle to the left. When Sydney would lock up and lose his momentum and I could sense that he wanted to pop that outside shoulder (usually the right one), I simply touched his shoulder with the whip and said, move here. It worked wonderfully and gave him just enough motivation to lift his shoulders and move sideways.
Once we had the circle going pretty smoothly, JL threw in a wrench that still has me a bit baffled. At the point in the circle where I could feel him resisting, she had me turn my head the other direction (if we were tracking left she had me look right), and use my outside leg as the new inside leg to push his hindquarters out as we changed from a left bend to a right bend. What it illustrated to me was how much I let the outside shoulder fall out. By looking to the inside, I was switching the bend which meant I had to catch the new outside shoulder before he lost it.
This is the crux of our problem at the canter. I am not controlling his outside shoulder. I am allowing him to fall out which makes him feel out of control and out of balance. Until I can control the outside shoulder at the trot, we will not be able to canter safely. Not a happy thought, but I am delighted that we have found an obvious problem. My job is to now fix it.