First of all, if you are riding a difficult horse, get a trainer. I consider myself to be a pretty decent rider. I problem solve, and I work out a lot of the issues on my own, but sometimes, a professional can come up with a solution that you just might not think of on your own.
Chemaine's suggestion that I bring Speedy up to the arena as a companion for Izzy solved so much of Izzy's tension that he is a completley different horse. Her further suggestion that I try a different bit has given me the horse that I knew was in there. Having a bit with control has helped me regain my status as the top dog. I already had Izzy's attention on the ground, but I simply couldn't get it in the saddle. With the correction bit, and now the double, he is putty in my hands.
I walked Izzy around, and he gave one or two pretty hard spooks, but I simply sat there and held my hands steady. Chemaine asked how quickly I felt I was able to get him back in line compared to using the correction bit. It was a great question, and one I am glad she thought to ask. What I realized was that with the double bridle, it took no upper body strength to get him back in order, and it didn't affect my balance at all.
In fact, he got super quiet and submissive almost immediately. It was as though he had checked to see if someone was in charge because he sure as hell didn't really want to be but was willing to do it if that was his only choice. Once he realized that I had things under control, he let out a deep sigh and let his ears flop happily.
With Speedy, the half halt means get soft because now we're going to GO. With Izzy, the half halt means slow down and get your balance. Over and over and over I asked him to slow down and rebalance, slow down and rebalance. Unlike Speedy, Izzy is a very forward thinking horse.
She had me think about it like this: Instead of thinking about it as contact, think about a connection. As soon as she said that, slot machine bells went off in my head. YES! A connection brings to mind an intimate conversation while contact sounds heavier.
With the double bridle, I felt that I was able to be far more relaxed through my arms, back, and core. With the snaffle, Izzy plowed through the bit so hard that I had to brace against him bracing against me. With the double, Izzy let go of the bit allowing me to have a quieter, softer conversation with him. So yeah, it does feel more like a connection than contact.
The thing that I kept remarking on during the entire lesson was Izzy's ears. They flopped around, or he kept them flicking back and forth at me without stop. It was as though he finally heard me up there. It was such a joy to see him so happy and relaxed in his work.
Since buying him two years ago, I've fluctuated between happiness and excitement with how he's doing to flat out disappointment and thoughts of selling him. But this breakthrough, this is a biggie. I finally feel like I am riding a dressage horse.
Our next clinic with Chemaine is in early January. I have a lot of homework, but I am feeling super confident that we are on an excellent path right now. Let me know if you'd like to ride with Chemaine, or if you'd like to just drop by and audit. She's worth the drive!