Monday's lesson was a great one: it was fun, it relieved a ton of work induced stress, and it somehow boosted my confidence even though we were working on something relatively brand new.
JL works hard for me during my lessons because she's a good trainer, but she's also committed to my success because she knows I do my homework each week and come back prepared for the next step. As soon as we got started, I had to explain that I just hadn't had any time over the week to work on anything with Speedy, but I had read a great article on leg yields that taught me something (Practical Horseman, August 2012, an excerpt from Janet Foy's newest book, Dressage for the Not-So-Perfect Horse).
JL loved the information I shared, and was pleased to hear that her method for teaching and correcting leg yields was the same as how an actual dressage trainer would treat the movement. I think she has seen a lot of poorly trained dressage horses and not many that are light and correct. I feel as though I am helping to change her view of the dressage world.
We did some quick warm up work, or tried to anyway. Out of nowhere, Speedy got wild and crazy so we cantered spirals to soften him and help him get his work face on. He was particularly resistant to the right so JL had me plant my inside hand on my thigh, a modified version of Christian Schacht's approach, so that I could more effectively control the outside rein. A dozen circles later, Speedy was much softer and willing to work on the leg yield.
We started to the left, which was the easier and more successful of the two directions. He didn't take big cross over steps, but I was able to keep his shoulder under control which allowed him to begin crossing over. For the first few attempts, I couldn't feel what was happening. JL explained that it was because he was still leading with the outside shoulder. Once I understood that I had to really slow him down, I could feel him struggle beneath me which was actually a step in the right direction!
So here's how it went: come down the long side (we're actually working at one end of the arena so it isn't very long); half halt into the turn to begin to slow that outside shoulder and get control of it; turn to look where I am going; make sure that he is straight for a stride or two; left leg just behind the girth asking for a yield; slow, slow, slow the outside shoulder ... and just before he stalls out or can't quite move anymore, apply the outside leg to move forward.
The last part was my favorite. I was tickled at how quickly Speedy responded to that go forward leg. I also liked it because it wraps up the movement and tells him when we're finished. I think he liked it too.
After only a few attempts at leg yield left, we were doing it with some success so JL had me pick up the left lead canter which he did quite nicely. When all was well, we prepared for the leg yield off the right leg. I made the turn up centerline (it's just the middle of that end of the arena), and tried to leg yield right. No response from Speedy so I halted and did a turn on the forehand. We moved forward, and I asked for another turn on the forehand. Oh, Speedy said, you want me to move my ass! Gotcha!
We repeated the trot down the long side, but this time I focused on controlling that outside shoulder long before I even made it to the turn. Once we were there, I half halted like crazy and had total control over that outside shoulder as we turned down centerline. I was looking where I was going, applying my right leg, slowing down that outside shoulder, and ... nothing happened. Which was GREAT because last week, we couldn't even get that far. Last week Speedy swung his haunches into my my right leg which required about a million turns on the forehand to correct.
JL and I praised him enormously. We repeated the exercise only a very few times. Each time, Speedy got a little better and actually took a few yielding steps. I was able to complete the movement enough that I was able to apply the outside leg to say go forward out of the movement. That little bit of improvement was enough to say we could call it a day.
It was a very good lesson. I have a schooling show on Sunday, and while we're still showing Training Level, I am excited to apply all that I've learned over this winter. One of my goals for this year is to be more competitive at this level. We'll see how it goes!