When Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, was here a few weeks ago, she had me work on essentially the same thing we always work on - softening both horses and then increasing their stride. I don't know what she said that was any different, but over the weekend, I was able to put it all together in a new way.
To increase his stride, Chemaine had me do lots of half halts to soften and then move out again while on a circle. We did it in little bursts. The one thing that was different was that for the half halt, she had me bring both elbows back while thinking about lifting his withers with my seat. Once I got him soft, she instructed me to send him forward without giving the reins away.
I don't really throw away the contact anymore, but what I finally felt over the weekend was that I can give without actually giving any rein length. It's all in the stretch down. During that moment of half halt, when Speedy would stretch his topline and lift his withers, he created space in which to then go forward.
Imagine packing a horse into a cardboard box where his nose and tail are touching the front and back of the box. If he compresses his frame a little by rounding his body and lifting his withers, his nose will no longer touch the box. Now he has "room" to move forward. That's what we did. To lengthen the stride without giving the reins, I just posted "bigger."
Chemaine is coming back for another clinic weekend on January 7th and 8th. If you'd like to ride or just come out and watch, let me know!