Over the past six months or so, the comments on my score sheets have really changed quite a bit. I am glad for that since I saw lots of braced, hollow, and needs to be steadier in the contact. My last several tests have earned comments more like needs more bend and more energy from behind. I am not discouraged by this at all. Clearly Speedy is less braced and hollow and much steadier in the bridle. It's not perfect of course, but at least the judges have found something else for us to work on!
The last few lessons have focused on the bend, and specifically getting Speedy to unlock his jaw to the inside. When he locks his jaw, I lift up on the inside rein and push him out, out, out. He's getting quicker and quicker to give and is much more willing to let me push his ribcage out.
We did more of that at Saturday's lesson, but then we worked really hard on getting his hind end more active. JL had me slow his front end down to the slowest trot possible and then send him forward with a squeeze. When he was a bit sluggish to my leg, we played what she calls, Racehorse. For Speedy to win the game, he has to nearly bolt forward when I squeeze. The purpose is to teach him to MOVE IT when I put my leg on. When he shoots forward, I praise him enthusiastically without worrying about any kind of frame. It's a bit scary encouraging such explosive forward energy, but with a lazy horse like Speedy G, it really works. After a bit of the Racehorse game, Speedy G learned that it was a lot less work if he simply moved forward when I put my leg on.
From there, JL had me slow down the front end until I could feel him about to stall. Once we reached that point, I squeezed with the expectation that the hind end would engage and push us forward. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Things didn't go completely perfectly however. At some point, Speedy got tired of working and decided that spooking would get him out of work. When he spooked, JL had me ride him fast and hard while tipping his nose to the inside and pushing him out, out, out with my inside leg. Essentially, we worked his little hinny off. At some point he decided that the extra work was harder than the original work.
When I first started riding with JL, I simply couldn't feel when Speedy was "running" on the forehand. I can now feel when he gets too heavy up front and can mostly re-balance him, but now that he's working in a more balanced frame, I can't quite feel when he has sped up that last little bit in the front. I need eyes on the ground telling me, There! He's speeding up. Slow the front end down and squeeze him forward from behind. I am hoping that with a follow up ride on Monday, I'll get better at feeling when he's about to lose the even connection.
Our next show, a two-day event, is just two short weeks away. We should be able to get two more lessons in before the show. I am actually beginning to get excited about it and think we can do a good job. If we can continue with the better bend and a more active hind end, the stretchy trot might improve!