If you'll remember, I was pondering our difficulties in the 10-meter canter circle. Speedy was pretty sure that a 10-meter canter circle meant that I wanted a canter/walk transition. Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, was here this weekend, so we were able to tackle that particular issue (only ten million to go).
Chemaine's visits are like therapy sessions; I always come prepared to talk about my issues. I explained the problem, confident that she'd have a way to help Speedy and I work it out. Lately though, she has had us start working on something that is not my problem. I've learned to just go with it.
After checking in to see that Speedy was indeed working with a longer, more reaching neck (our homework after our last session), Chemaine had me come back to a walk which was definitely not the 10-meter canter circle I was expecting.
She had me put my whip in my inside hand and then had me ask for the walk. When Speedy didn't step out smartly, she had me tap him behind my inside leg. An issue that Speedy and I struggle with is his tendency to curl. With a longer neck, he's no longer doing that as much. With that issue "fixed," he needs to better engage his hind end.
Once I was getting a more marching walk, we did walk to trot transitions, but only from a marching walk. If he started poking, I was to tap him with the whip to remind him to use his hind end. Almost immediately his trot transition was 100 times better. I'll be honest, I need to ride this exercise a few more times to really get it because somewhere in there, I also moved my hands forward to keep his neck long without giving away the connection. It was a real feely-feely exercise.
Just when I thought that Chemaine had forgotten about my 10-meter canter issue, she asked for the exercise at the canter. I should have known she had a plan. The reason Speedy was having so much trouble with the canter was because he wasn't engaging his hind end well enough. He was carrying too much weight on the forehand which is why my half halts had to be so strong which is what told him to walk.
And of course, that solved the problem. In order to get a more balanced walk to canter transition, the horse must work over his back and engage his hind end. Once Speedy's hind end was working, he was able to hold the 10-meter canter circle. To help him even further, Chemaine had me over bend him to the inside to get him firmly on my outside rein. Then I moved my hands forward and drove him forward to the bit with my seat. It was the first time I was able to drive forward into the 10-meter canter circle.
After he was marching into the canter, we put it all together for the simple change. Once I get the canter to walk transition, it takes way too many walk steps to rebalance and get the new bend for the new lead. Insisting on a marching walk straight out of the canter helped a ton. Chemaine really insisted that he keep thinking forward even as he came to the walk. He'll only think forward though if I insist on it.
We're not done with this issue yet, but we are chipping away at our obstacles, and they're getting smaller. We might not be confirmed at Second Level, but we're working at it!