For me, showing lets me see what I have learned, and what I still need to work on. The judge at Sunday's show really got us on maintaining a steady contact, steady rhythm, and of course the canter. So when I went out to ride this morning, I kept those things in my mind. Here's what I discovered:
- Now that Speedy G has learned the canter cue (inside leg at the girth, outside leg goes back, scoop slightly with my seat), he gets confused when my outside leg goes back to keep his hind end from drifting out. I think that's why he was sucking back and leaping forward during Sunday's tests. As we rode this morning, I tried to keep my outside leg quieter and worked on riding a steadier rising trot.
- I also think that since I am asking for his head to be closer to the vertical, he thinks this is a whoa and slows down. I was really conscious of this today and kept asking for more forward trot even as I "closed" the front door. This is still confusing for him, and something I may need help with. I know that pushing them into the contact is kind of the point, but Speedy is a bit confused by it.
- The canter also got some work today. When I felt ready to move to the canter, Speedy braced his neck, hollowed his back, and prepared to buck or kick out. Hmmm ... So we didn't canter. We repeated the circles, and if Speedy tried to anticipate the canter cue, I just ignored it and kept on trotting. When I did feel him relax, I asked for the canter. The first tries came with a buck or a kick, but I moved him back to the trot and asked again. Since I could tell it was a tension issue, I started asking for the canter with the gentlest aid possible. I scooped slightly with my seat while remembering to sit up and moved my outside leg back just a little and boom - there it was!
Don't misunderstand, I did not fix anything today, but I definitely see where we need some work and we'll just keep practicing until we get it right. When I feel discouraged, I think back to where we were last summer, and I realize that we have come a long way.