When I showed up for my lesson, JL gave me a sight for sore eyes look. It had been a few weeks since my last lesson. I immediately told her about Sydney's stiffness issues from the last two days and asked what I could do to get back on the right track. As always, she came up with a series of exercises, and an explanation, that had us back in form by the end of the lesson.
With a week off, Sydney had definitely gotten stiff and braced. JL felt that there was probably some anxiety as well. Not that he could tell us, but he probably felt a little pressure about getting back to work. It was as if he didn't think he would be able to do what I was asking of him. As if in demonstration, I asked for a trot and got a stiff as a board in answer.
Right away JL started with some suggestions. Rather than ask Sydney to work over his back and round up, she broke the lesson down into very small parts that Sydney could do.
- First, I dramatically loosened the reins and simply asked him to look at my knee. Tracking left, I flexed him to my left and then to my right, all at a trot. The point was to show him that he could bend his neck in both directions.
- Once his neck was a little looser, I started to make small circles with my inside hand planted on my knee. The purpose was to send him sideways so that he was engaging his inside hind leg.
- We then moved on to figure eights, all the while focusing on suppling his body. We worked on bending right and left, right and left.
- Then we turned the figure eights into serpentines. The whole purpose was again just to get him bending his body.
- Once he was more forward and bending, I took up the reins so that I could feel the corners of his mouth. To make it even easier for him, JL had me widen the reins as far as I could so that I never lost the contact. We continued with the serpentines keeping that same light contact.
- Next, I put him on a 20-meter circle, tracking left. I moved my hands closer together and asked for more forward. He still wasn't fully round and framed up, but he was starting to work over his back and step more deeply under himself.
- Little by little, I shortened the reins and asked for more and more forward. When he got stuck, I asked him to flex to the inside.
- Although it took breaking the process into many little parts, before too long, Sydney was supple, loose, and working over his back. I had a huge smile on my face as he packed me around with a loose, swinging back.
- I gave him a walk break and repeated the process to the right. It didn't take nearly as long, and once he was moving freely in a rhythmic, swinging trot, I asked for a halt and called it a day.
I really dig Captain Awesome!