I got on him after the lunging but before Debbie rode him. Right away, he got tense and bunched up. He even started to do a baby rear. Not feeling any embarrassment, I suggested that it would be better if Debbie got on to show me what they've been doing with him.
When she got on him, he relaxed and started walking out nicely. She showed me that she gives him all the rein while simply insisting that he keep his head down and stretch. Before he could even pop his nose up, she was sponging the rein and insisting that he keep his head down and stretched.
Once he was moving forward with a nice, relaxed walk, they picked up a trot where she insisted on the same thing: head down and stretching. After watching her work for a while, I felt confident about trying it again.
As soon I got on and asked for forward, Izzy's stride got short, but I quickly figured out that I needed to let my hips swing more, and I had to take my leg off of him. Before too long, he was walking with a big stride and stretching downward. We changed direction, and again he got a little short-strided until I relaxed through my hips and let the rein out.
While he did trot here and there, that wasn't the goal so I brought him back to a walk every time. I wish I had tons of natural feel and could just sense what to do, but alas, that's not the case. Keeping him walking forward took a lot of direction from Debbie and a ton of focus on my part.
I called Chemaine the next day and discussed the training session over with her. She gave me some excellent pointers:
- To keep his stride long, I need to imagine that I am walking on my own two legs. That swing we have when we walk is the same swing that needs to happen in the saddle. When we "push" the walk, we often bear down with our seat bones which actually impedes the horse's walk and shortens their stride. That's why Izzy started to go up; he didn't know where else to go.
- I also need to get my leg off. If I want to add leg, it needs to be quick and more like a flutter.
- I also need to work on channeling Izzy's movement by being very clear in where I want him to go. If I sit around waiting for what he's going to do, he feels leaderless and starts to wonder what I am going to do.
- Chemaine suggested I try all of this with Speedy. If I ride him like a green bean, I'll start to have a better feel for what a relaxed leg and seat feels like.
Izzy's in a large paddock with enough room to canter around if he feels like it, and the staff will make sure he's blanketed, fed, and cared for. When I go up, I can work on getting to know him better, encourage more head lowering, and we can do some of the lunging work that Debbie showed me they're doing with him.
He sure looks like a fancy pants to me. I just hope I don't screw things up!