As for the chutes, do you remember the post I shared the other day about cantering down the long sides through the chute created by the arena's rail and the jumps? I had hoped to be cantering it by this week instead of just managing to get through at a trot. Well, we're halfway there.
I had two lessons this week. For both of them, cantering through the chute on the left lead was easy-peasy. Sydney was light on the outside rein, maintained a lovely rhythm, and made the turn without asking a single question. To the right was a different story.
Now that Sydney knows we're doing something different, we've taken a backward step. The right lead canter departure has lost some of its fluidity and his trot work is showing some tension. All we were able to accomplish on Wednesday was getting some relaxation at the trot while going straight out of the turn. And that might be giving us too much credit.
The exercise went something like this: pick up a trot, tracking right. Since he was so tense, we went back to the crabbing exercise where his haunches are in and I keep his nose on the rail. As we approached the turn, I made sure he was very straight with haunches in and nose to the rail. As we exited the corner with the chute open in front of us, I had to use TONS of outside leg and rein to keep his haunches from falling out, while using a lot of inside leg at the girth to keep him moving forward.
We missed the straightness out of the corner many times. And when we did manage to exit the corner, it was usually while fishtailing all over the place. After an hour of work, I finally felt how my aids should work together to help Sydney through the corner and then continue down the long side.
We finished the lesson by going back to a circle so that I could re-establish some inside bend. It was a tough lesson for Sydney. Cha Ching's mom had brought her filly for a lesson so her trailer was parked at the end of our long side (very scary) and she was schooling her filly at the opposite end (also very scary). All of this provided good distractions for Sydney. If we only ever work when things are calm and just so, we'll never get it at a show.
I got back on him yesterday, the day after our second lesson. While I was slightly apprehensive about what he was going to give me, I was far more focused on putting it all together. We trot both long sides with changes of rein across the diagonal with no issue. We picked up a left lead canter and circled at both ends like he does it every day. We took a short walk break, and then I asked for a right lead canter.
He picked it up without any hesitation. We circled once, and I pointed him down the long side to C. He went right where I pointed him and never changed his rhythm. We circled at C and came back to A. Without making a second circle, I sent him back down the long side, staying on the rail all the way back to A. He was perfect. There was no tension, no change in his rhythm, and he was light and soft in my hands.
I brought him to a quiet halt, praised him like crazy, and got off. I am doing a trail ride with a new friend this morning, more about that later, and then we're off to the cabin for the weekend. I am hoping that the trail ride and a weekend off will give Sydney time to reflect on his new found ability so that when we go back for a lesson on Monday, we're prepared to show JL what we can do.
But you know, if we can only make that corner at a trot while tracking right, I'll be okay with it because I know that we'll have it in no time at all. Here's to slow and steady!