So far, JL has helped me use my outside rein and leg to turn on the haunches. She's also helped me use the inside rein and inside leg to bend and move out. We then had a lesson where we put those aids together to make round circles; pushing out when he falls in and catching the shoulder when he driftes out. It felt a lot like dribbling a soccer ball. A push from the outside leg, a tap from the inside leg, and so on. All the while, I was holding the outside rein steady to keep Sydney from "falling in" and rocking with the inside rein to say soften. Or ... I was using the outside rein to keep him steady and pushing him to that outside rein with the inside leg.
Then I had a little problem with him being heavy, especially so to the right. When we track right, I have to really take hold of the outside rein to keep him from collapsing into the circle. This week he has decided to hang on the rein to balance himself. Nope, can't help you there, Dude! The heaviness to the left was easily cleared up by simply bending my elbows and letting them rock with his rhythm. Tada - lightness!
So how did we "fix" the heaviness to the right? As suspected, JL had me get a bit firmer. As we tracked right, I held the outside rein with a steady contact so that I had Sydney slightly counter-flexed. We made the turns with outside leg pressure. As he began to maintain the rhythm, I started trying to establish contact with the inside rein by gently rocking it with his stride. (Think about a rocking chair.) With a bent elbow, there's a lot of room to pull back with the shoulder blade and move forward again. When my elbows aren't bent, and my wrists are "broken," all my movement is trapped in my hands.
AHA! That's riding with your hands!
As I rocked my shoulder and elbow back and forth (with a bent elbow), his nose become straighter and tipped less to the outside. As heavy as he was on my outside rein, that's how much I rocked the inside rein. Little by little we established a steady contact with the inside rein. He started to soften the outside jaw and neck muscles and tip his nose into the bend all without me loosening the outside rein. As he did so, his head got lower and lower as he reached for the contact. As he started to bend, he also began falling into the circle. To correct him, I went back to what we had learned about inside and outside leg aids: when he fell in, I bumped him with my inside leg to push him out. When he drifted too far out, I bumped him with my outside leg. As we circled, it became a game of catching him before he went too far off of the prescribed circle. Eventually he was staying right between my legs, and he needed only slight corrections to stay on course.
Another AHA! - that's what riding with your seat and legs feels like!