For the first time in at least a year, I asked Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, to hop up on Speedy. Not that she doesn't want to ride him, but for the most part, I am doing all the training rides with her coaching and teaching me.
I made sure that Speedy was warmed up before she pulled in for our lesson because while she didn't know it, my plan for the lesson was to finally have her ride his canter half pass to see where we're stuck. Basically, I wanted to know if it was me, the mostly likely explanation, or him. As it turns out, it was mostly him. His canter half passes are weak right now because he just hasn't quite developed the reach and strength for the WOW type of canter half pass that I am expecting.
It only took Chemaine a few minutes to figure out his issue. The main reason his half pass is a bit sticky, particularly to the right, is because I've let him lean on that right rein since the beginning of time. I am working on it, but it's proving much harder to fix than it would have been way back at Training Level. For now, Chemaine's advice is to get what bend I can and not be too hard on him. It'll come.
Chemaine did show me one exercise to help develop his reach and strength though. Just because it's hard for him doesn't mean I'm not going to work on it. Working on it is how it will get less hard. Essentially, the exercise involved half passing to the quarterline, moving his shoulders back toward the rail, and then riding forward in a haunches in. When the bend has been reestablished, move laterally into the half pass again.
The first time I tried it to the right, Speedy ran headlong into to my right rein. We had a little discussion about it, and then we tried it again. The feeling is of moving the shoulders out of the way toward the rail to allow the haunches to swing in. It's very difficult to do when you're falling in on your inside shoulder. Once we tried it a few times, he got much more supple, and the half pass did improve.
We now have several new exercises that we can do to free up his shoulders - counter canter 20-meter circles with 10-meter true canter circles at each "corner," pivoting out of the corner, and now this half pass to haunches in exercise.
We're Not-So-Speedy-Dressage for a reason.