After reviewing how Saturday's show had gone, I suggested that we spend the afternoon working on the stretchy trot, especially since it was so hot. Getting Speedy to stretch is going to take some work, but when he gets it, we're going to really be on a roll.
JL had me start the exercise at a walk. Teaching a horse to stretch involves two basic components: a LOT of leg and a delicate feel. JL had me wrap my legs around Speedy and SQUEEZE without letting up, ever. The first part was to teach Speedy that he needed to move forward without speeding up. At first, when I put my leg on, he tried to trot, but it was my job to say forward, but not faster.
When faster wasn't the right answer, Speedy assumed I was clamped around his barrel because I was afraid to fall off so he just shuffled around slowly. That was not the right answer either so we had to play a minute of Race Horse - I add leg, you move!
When he was back to moving forward from the leg, I had to remind him to go forward but not faster. Now his mental wheels were really turning. He understood that he needed to push forward with his hind end, but that I didn't want him to speed up. He was ready for the next step.
JL's next instruction was to let my hands slide forward just a few inches. If he stretched his neck to maintain the contact, all was well. If he let go, I was to lean back, widen my hands, and add even more leg. Until he learns to keep himself driving forward, I wasn't allowed to stop squeezing. It took us a few rounds, but I eventually felt him stretch his neck forward consistently. I could squeeze his neck forward and then draw it back it in.
Once JL could see that I had the feel at the walk, she suggested we try it at the trot. I added leg and Speedy marched forward, but he didn't trot forward; yah! It took an extra bit of leg to let him know that yes, this time I did want a trot. Using my seat, I sloooowed my posting to get a very slow trot. I was still squeezing him forward but reminding him that he wasn't to go any faster. He got it almost right away.
When I felt him pushing steadily from his hind end, I allowed my hands to go forward just a few inches. When I felt him maintain the contact, all was well. If he dropped the contact, I added more leg, leaned back and widened my hands until he stretched forward again.
We still don't have a stretchy trot, but I now have an excellent exercise that will get us there. Speedy's a fast learner; we might be surprising JL in the next few weeks!