After Monday's lesson, I spent a lot of time thinking about straightness. When I rode on Tuesday, I worked on feeling straightness. So when Wednesday's lesson rolled around, Sydney and I showed my trainer what straightness looks like.
We tootled around to the left for a minute trying to rev up Sydney's engine. Gone are the days where he would careen around wildly for 45 minutes while I tried desperately to slow down. Now, I have to keep bumping him forward with my seat and legs. I even tried to get a bit of a gallop from him. No luck, but I did have a big smile on my face.
Just six months ago he couldn't pick up a sane and controlled left lead canter without a lot of preparation. Now, I can ask for a left lead canter whenever and wherever I'd like. I think that very soon I'll be able to do the same with the right lead canter.
I showed JL how Sydney is now able to turn from the outside leg and rein. He halted easily off the outside rein and waited for me to cue for the trot. As long I keep his neck straight, no counter flexing and no inside bend, he is very happy. If I lose focus and let him drift to the outside, he gets a little worried and starts taking matters into his own hands.
As soon as I push his hindquarters back behind his shoulders, his head drops and his back gets a nice little swing to it. JL told me to ask for the right lead canter any time I thought he was ready. Without shortening my reins, I simply sat quietly and gently scooped him forward. Nothing but a quiet canter. He wasn't super round of course, but at least he didn't bolt or rear.
My homework for the rest of the week is to work on keeping him straight. If he's counter bent at all, I need a little more inside rein, and I need to get his butt behind his shoulders. If he starts to cut the circle, I need to push him more forward while keeping him straight.
If we have that all in order on Monday, we'll be working on getting a little bit of inside bend.
Just a little editorial note: if you're relatively new here, please don't think I am an idiot who can't canter a horse. As I read what I wrote, it sounds like I am a complete beginner who doesn't know her ass from a hole in the ground. Sydney is just a tough horse to ride. He requires near perfection in his rider. He is freaked out by mistakes, mine or his, and as a result has just never learned how to go along with the flow.
We are teaching him that life is no big deal. As I figure out what's been wired weirdly, I am slowly untangling those wires and putting them back in an orderly fashion. As a result, we are getting really close to having a Steady Eddie who is happy in his work.
I've been told that once you get an OTTB on your team, he'll do anything for you. I am starting to see that in my own Captain Awesome.