Monday's lesson wasn't very much fun. JL is sticking to this challenge Sydney idea. She wants me to start being very picky with him so that he learns how to work when he's not feeling all warm and fuzzy. The "problem" with that approach is that I don't get to feel all warm and fuzzy either! Harrumph.
We started out with some basic circles to the left and right with some changes of direction. JL agreed that he looked happier and more relaxed than ever. That means he needs to be challenged. From now on, I am to focus on maintaining an exact cadence through all of our work, especially in the corners and changes of direction. No speeding up and no slowing down. This feels like an easy assignment.
Apparently JL thought so too, as she added a second element. In May, we were working on lightening his front end by doing counter bent circles that spiraled in and then back out on a regular bend. She now wants me to take that idea one step farther: she wants one or two strides done from a turn on the haunches while at the trot. It doesn't have to be a big movement, but she wants to see me keep the outside hind in place as he moves his outside shoulder away from my outside leg.
It's pretty easy to do on Speedy G, but I just couldn't get it done with Sydney. Instead of lifting and swinging over, he just spun around my inside leg like a carousel horse. I just couldn't keep his hindquarters from spinning out. Ultimately, we tried for a single step from the halt and worked up to a walk and then a trot. My homework is to try for it at the walk without letting him halt.
Throughout the lesson, JL could see that I was frustrated. I just couldn't understand what she was asking me to do, and I couldn't see where this exercise could be applied. To demonstrate, she had me ride a square, and suddenly, I saw the problem. Sydney wants to swing his hindquarters all over the place through the turn. I did this same exercise with Speedy a few months ago. I need to be able to control his shoulders which I can't do if I am letting his butt skate back and forth.
The "good" part of the lesson was that Sydney handled the stress of wrong, wrong, wrong really well. I could tell when he was feeling frustrated about not getting the correct answer (my fault), but I was able to keep him focused and feeling okay about it. A few times, he simply stopped and said, I don't get it which was great because it wasn't the old bolt and rear that I used to get less than a year ago. JL commented that many times the horses start to just back up hard when they can't figure this out. She was pleased with how hard he tried to listen to me even while he was unhappy. And that's what we're trying to teach him right now.
So for the next few days, we'll be working a bit on a correct turn on the haunches without his butt trying to beat us to the finish line!