My trainer, Chemaine Hurtado, rode in a clinic with Robert Dover last week. She posted several videos of the lesson (in a private group so I can't share), but one in particular really spoke to me. I didn't catch the context of the moment that Robert was schooling her through, but I think the gist of it was getting a better connection in order to achieve more forward and suppleness in his gaits.
At the beginning of the video, Rocky looks a little stuck himself. He keeps trying to break into a canter where his haunches are swinging back and forth. I know that feeling well. When Izzy does it, it means he's trying to go forward, but he doesn't think he has anywhere to go. Robert's response to Chemaine was this.
It's not from a lack of desire to please you. It's from a confusion of what it means when your lower leg goes near him. Does it mean you want him to react and like run off of it?
Don't think you have to bring him so much back.
Think more like, "You want me to extend?" and you say, "Resist the extension."
As they crossed the diagonal on a right bend, he had Chemaine do a haunches in to really get the horse on the outside rein. When they came to the opposite long side, she changed the bend and allowed the haunches to fall in line. Through the corner, Robert urged her to push the horse forward. When Rocky broke into a sucked back canter again, he said this.
Contact, contact ... push him forward! Keep your reins. No matter what, keep your reins. Give him a kick forward if he doesn't go on the right rein. "Take my rein, pull on my rein!" He's got to want to go to the extension. I don't want to feel him back away. Less restricting in your hand until he pulls on your hand. Then you just resist the medium.
Give him a push that makes him go to the rein and then close it.
Over the last few days, this is how I've been riding Izzy, and it's been working! Every stride, I push my hands forward as I ask for forward. I am hoping that Izzy starts to think that he has room to go forward. I've also been asking for tons of haunches in on the circle and across the diagonal. The benefit has been a looser back and a horse too busy to think about being spooky.
Chemaine will be here for a clinic on both Saturday and Sunday. If you live close by, we'd love to have you audit. She promised to bring us what she learned from Robert Dover. I am excited to hear what she has to say!