Working on the stretchy trot was another one of those game changers. JL actually showed me how to establish the stretch at the trot. She put it this way, he knows what you want him to do, now you'll show him how to do what you want him to do. Yep! That was it exactly. All this time Speedy has known when to stretch down, but I haven't been able to explain how to do it.
First JL had me establish a good working trot where Speedy wasn't hanging on me. She had me test him by letting the rein go. When he fell forward, it was clear that he was't working from behind. We went around a few more times until it was obvious that he was holding himself up. JL described the stretchy trot like squeezing toothpaste. I have to squeeze him out of the tube. Hmm ...
While trotting in a balanced frame, JL told me to squeeze with both legs as I slowly let the reins out. If Speedy started to speed up, I sat up tall and leaned back which is his cue to SLOW down. If his nose popped up, I widened my hands while still squeezing forward. I couldn't believe how well it worked! Speedy gave me some really excellent stretchy trot circles.
My job is to establish a truly balanced trot. I am to squeeze him forward while slowly letting out the rein. I have to maintain contact even if that means widening my hands (and losing points). If he speeds up, I will sit tall and lean back to tell him to SLOW IT DOWN! Just as a side note, here is an excellent post about teaching your horse to stretch.
These two recents skills, getting more activity from behind and maintaining a very steady connection, will definitely help me get to First Level. Speaking of which ... more tomorrow!