I've been using my new laced reins when I ride Sydney, and I already like the lack of rein slippage. Keeping my grip on the reins is helping me maintain a steadier and more even contact.
Unfortunately, they turned out to be a tad short. They're 54 inches, but apparently, not everyone measures from the same point. It's okay though as I had already planned on buying another pair for Speedy's schooling bridle. I'll use this pair for Speedy and buy a second pair of Stübben reins for Sydney's bridle. They're what I use on Speedy's show bridle so I already know that I like them.
Even with the slightly shorter reins, I had what might possibly be the best ride ever on Sydney on Wednesday evening. I've been using some of the squeeze-into-the-stretch ideas with him as well. Sydney's frame and training are different from Speedy G's. Sydney wants to stretch into the bridle. He also wants to be heavy where Speedy wants to avoid the contact. These are two very different problems.
I am finding that a heavy horse is easier to deal with than a horse who curls under and drops behind the vertical. The good thing is that both problems have a similar solution - more leg! In Sydney's case, squeezing him forward does get me more stretch. When he gets heavy, I have several exercises that will lighten him up. The first one I do at the canter.
As we canter on the left lead, I count one-two, one-two, one-two. On the first one-two, I swing his head into the circle. For the second count, I ride straight for two beats. For the second count, I ride with his neck counter bent. Then it's back to straight for two beats and in for two beats.
Getting the counter bent strides took a massive amount of leg and effort on my part. At first, when I tipped his nose out, his whole body spun out and he blew through the outside shoulder. After much trial and error, I learned how to use my knee (in particular) to send his shoulder IN while swinging his head and neck out.
We nailed it on Wednesday. I started by just getting the canter somewhat even, but when he wouldn't soften, I started with the two count to the inside, then straight-straight, back to the inside, and then straight-straight. Almost immediately he let go through his poll and jaw. Then I started swinging his neck and head out for two beats and straight for two. Within just a few repetitions, I felt like I had a bobble head doll. My reins were soft and loose, and he was willingly swinging his neck to the inside and then outside, inside and outside. When we returned to the trot, he was so supple!
I keep shaking my head in absolute wonderment; this is not the same horse I was riding 6 months ago. I am so impressed with how much bend he can give me, how uphill his canter can be, and how forward he can be. With him, I have to really focus on ME as that is how I get the most correct work from him. The instant I quit "riding," he falls apart. He is certainly not a school master, but he is very quick to offer correct work when asked correctly.
We have a show on Sunday, Intro C and Training Level Test 1. I hope we can get some of this at the show. I know what he is doing is really nice; I only hope he is confident enough to show it to the judge. No matter what, I'll keep working on it.