This last few days have been a stretch for Speedy and me. At our last lesson, we worked on keeping Speedy's head up so that he has to push from behind without ducking behind the contact. I am getting it, but I am not always quick enough to catch him drop before he drops the contact. Fortunately I have a lesson today, so we can work on it some more.
Over the weekend, I worked on the concept as best I could. I feel like an idiot though. I am riding with my reins really short and my hands way up high again, something I've already worked on. But added to raised hands is knowing when to add leg. I focused on sensing when Speedy wasn't working from his hind end, or more importantly, when he was about to stop working from his hind end. As soon as I felt him falter behind or begin to drop his head, I added leg.
When we did this at last week's lesson, he never softened. Over the weekend though, I started to get a sense of what I was aiming for. If his nose dropped, he lost the oomph from behind. After just a few minutes of leg, leg, leg, I finally felt that Speedy was really taking me somewhere. I could feel him thrusting from behind and after a bit, he was lighter in my hand.
Each time I felt him pushing from behind and being just that little bit lighter, I let him take a short walk break. Then I shortened my reins, and we did it again. Before long, I was riding a 20-meter circle while adding a 10-meter circle at the top - the "headless snowman" exercise. What was fun about it, was testing whether or not we could maintain that feeling of pushing from behind as we made the change of direction into the smaller circle. At first, I could feel Speedy drop behind the bit/lose the contact as I changed reins, but after a few more efforts, he got better at shifting his balance while continuing to carry us both with some thrust.
I am a bit worried about working on something so BIG just weeks before riding in the Christian Schacht clinic. I feel like we've taken a step backward as we prepare for two steps forward. I am hoping that by the time the clinic rolls around, we are done going backwards and are instead beginning that leap forward. Tonight's lesson should give me a better idea of whether I am on the right track or not.