It started with that clinic I did with Sydney in October and has continued through my work with JL and Christian Schacht. I am right on the edge of knowing when I am about to pull back instead of letting the horse reach forward.
I had an unbelievably good ride on Speedy the other day. We worked on tear drops, voltes, leg yields, and even some pretty fine extensions. The whole while, I focused on giving with my hands and asking, asking, asking with my inside leg. We finally had some show worthy First Level work.
And then I rode him the next day and it all went to hell in a hand basket. I was pulling back. A lot.
So we took a walk break, and I refocused and went back to work. Instead of pulling back to get him to slow down, I just did voltes over and over and used the corners of the arena. I finally get what they mean when they say to use the corner to rebalance your horse. I also really focused on resisting with my core to slow him down.
We finished up with some decent work, not as good as the day before, but definitely improved. Yesterday when I rode, Speedy was the most round, softest, and willing that he's ever been. For the first time ever he gave me a loooong stretchy trot with a lifted back. He was perfectly balanced and maintained an even rhythm. It was divine.
Things were a bit more dramatic with Sydney. He had a meltdown at home, which is pretty rare these days. Rather than pulling back, which is what I desperately wanted to do, I planted my left hand at the withers and just let him go. As long as he was going in a circle, I figured that he couldn't run off with me. He did get away once or twice, but it was no big deal.
By planting my left hand, I was free to soften with my right without feeling the need to actually stop him. While tracking left, my planted inside hand maintains the bend; when we track right, I am free to really work the right rein without him grabbing the left and bolting.
When I rode him yesterday, I did more of the same, but I was rewarded with a horse who started really focusing on the rhythm I wanted who then volunteered the right lead canter. And it was a nice canter.
This is all a bunch of rambling, I know, but I can really feel some big puzzle pieces shifting around. I just about have it, and when I do, I know those pieces are going to snap together tightly.