The two areas that I am focusing on right now are our inside bend to the left and our canter departures. It's not that these things are terrible, but I know that if I can polish them up a little bit, we'll have a better chance of improving our scores.
Speedy has been giving me better and better work each day. I'm trying to ride him three or for days in a row with three days off in between. Sydney would flip out with that schedule, but it works well for Speedy. For the past few days I've been working really hard on the inside bend which led to a pretty big AHA moment for both Speedy and me.
He was really stiff on Saturday morning to the left. To the right, I was delighted with how solidly he was on the outside rein. He was practically floating around the arena. We had a perfectly elastic connection that was everything you want it to be.
As we did the working trot 1-loop from M to F, which has two right bends with a left bend in the middle, I giggled in sheer delight. He stayed connected throughout the loop with clear and consistent bend throughout. I could feel his ribcage shift as I asked for the left bend and then shift again for the right bend.
And then we changed directions.
Instead of making the loop, I focused on ten-meter circles and really put my spur on. He immediately shifted his ribcage and started stepping under with the inside hind leg. As soon as I felt the bend, I put him on the rail and did a series of very short, shallow loops down the long side. Basically we took just two or three strides on a left bend and then switched for two or three strides to a right bend and then back to the left. When we got to the short side, I pushed him deep into the corner, trot passed C, and then pushed him deep into the next corner on a left bend. We then repeated the series of shallow loops down the opposite long side.
By then, I could really feel him changing the bend through his body so I gave him a walk break. When I shortened my reins again to continue working, he flicked his ears at me lifted his withers and walked into a very collected canter. Since he had caught me by surprise, I immediately stepped into my outside stirrup to keep him in a trot. In the next moment, after it was too late, I realized that I should have just ridden through that perfect canter departure.
Either way, it didn't matter because the trot that he gave was the best trot he has ever offered. He was on springs. I rode his unbelievably generous offering on a 20-meter circle, turned up centerline, and asked for a halt. While I wanted to school more loops, I knew it was the right moment to quit. I wanted him to feel proud of himself and successful in his work, so I let him finish on a really high note.
We're both getting better and better. I am actually really looking forward to the championship show. While winning would be fabulous, just getting this kind of work from my boy is reward enough.
Oh … so what was the AHA moment? Well, two things actually. The first was that I was actually able to identify the problem quickly and had a solution (ten-meter circles with my spur). The second was that I had another way to address the difficulty of changing the bend - the mini loops.
Recognizing what is going wrong, and knowing how to fix it, really helps build my confidence. That problem/solution cycle tells me that I do know what I am doing, at least some of the time.