Because I was busy doing a few other things - the Summerlane Farm trail ride, shopping for Mother's Day, and a lesson on Speedy, Izzy had a few days off. At first, he seemed happy to come out and play. He was a bit tense about something in the yard (long story), but he kept his marbles locked up tight.
His walk was mostly fine, but he wasn't really willing to stretch over his back. I tried a variety of exercises including the shoulder in/haunches in on a circle, but he he just wouldn't quite let the tension go.
Sometimes I find that the canter will do what a trotting exercise won't. Izzy disagreed. He refused to pick up a left lead canter. I kicked and asked and kicked some more, but he emphatically said NO, it's too hot. I finally hopped off and got the whip.
I focused on relaxing my seat and upper body. I insisted that he could only pick up the canter if it wasn't against my hand. As soon as he softened, we walked. We repeated this several times to the left. By the time I asked for a right lead canter, he was listening but was still tight across his back.
The right lead canter is the one that can be the most difficult when he's tense. He doesn't want to give me an inside bend because he falls in on his inside shoulder. He also loses the rhythm of the canter in his hind legs. He'll swap leads back and forth or sort of stutter with his hind legs. All of a sudden I could hear my trainer's voice in my head. Half halt. Where's your inside bend? Half halt! More!!!!
I bent him to the inside to put him on my outside rein, and then I half halted. And all of a sudden I knew why I needed a half halt and what feeling I was trying to achieve.
He had lost the rhythm of the canter, and I could feel that he needed to slow down his front end so that his hind legs could reorganize. It was the clearest sense of understanding that I've had in a while. While maybe not perfectly executed, I could feel that my half halts were making perfect sense to Izzy.
We schooled the canter for a few more minutes. Every time he relaxed and felt balanced, we took a walk break. He was still tight and worried, but he was completely focused on me and was doing his best to do what I was asking. I finally felt like my aids were very specific, and I was actually helping him.
Little by little Izzy and I are becoming a team, and his level of trust in me is growing. He's still not an easy horse to ride, but he's getting less and less complicated. I was thrilled with what we were able to work through yesterday. My diamond in the rough is really starting to shine.