Right now, he is happy to bend left, but he struggles with bending to the right. It's not that he's stiff, he just feels insecure about his balance, and this horse is all about confidence. If he doesn't feel it, he assumes he can't do it. So, everything we did was about helping him to feel balanced so that he feels confident. The dude's got a fragile ego.
I was able to use the whole arena without the worry of riding a run away rocket. Instead of riding a green-broke horse, I felt like I was finally schooling a young horse in the basics of dressage. In fact, I never once though of him as a green bean.
We started out with some simple trot work and moved immediately into the left lead canter. None of our work is perfect of course, but Chemaine had nothing to criticize. His left lead canter is coming along really nicely. It's adjustable, fairly balanced, and easy for him to do. I didn't want to use our time schooling what I can already work on by myself.
We moved on to the right lead canter which is where our current trouble lies. I haven't touched the right lead since our lesson in January. We had too much missing for me to tackle it. The first thing I needed to establish was a right bend without losing the haunches to the outside. I am really proud of how I was able to work through that.
Now that we can track right at the trot while keeping the haunches in the same hemisphere, I felt good about attempting the right lead canter with Chemaine's help. Izzy can pick it up, but within just a handful of strides, he either loses the lead in the back and cross canters, or he cross canters and then tries to fix the problem by swapping leads in the front.
Chemaine's fix is proving to be brilliant. It doesn't punish the left lead canter, which he feels quite proud of, while at the same time insists that Izzy work harder than he would if he just maintained the right lead canter. Essentially it works like this:
- Put him in a position to pick up the right lead - haunches in, inside bend, my seat aids where they need to be, and wait for it.
- Once he picks up the right lead, pat him and keep my inside hip forward and my outside leg back while MAINTAINING THE INSIDE BEND.
- When he cross canters, I need to push his inside hind (the right) into the outside rein until he softens to the inside rein. What this does is shows him that he can bend to the inside and canter. It also serves to weight the inside hind leg, which is what he is trying to avoid by switching to the left lead. And by the way, it is his left hind that he injured last year.
- As soon as he softens to the inside rein, I can bring him back to trot where he is already set up for the right lead canter, and I ask again.
Chemaine's next fix involved changing the bend - what else?! Once I got the right lead canter, I immediately changed the bend and rode the true canter in a counter bend. And rather than stick to a 20 or 30-meter circle, I used the entire arena. By cantering longer lines and making the turns more gradual, I had better control of his haunches. Once I was able to get and keep the canter, we wrapped up the day in order to revisit the exercise the next day.
To be continued.