But on to The Lesson:
The farther I get with Speedy, the more "finer points" I am seeing. Right now, we are stuck on the left bend. Of course he can bend left, and of course he can make the turn, but I am definitely feeling some stickiness in his jaw and poll. To the right, he moves off my leg well (enough for now, anyway). To the left, not so much. JL has had me working on an exercise to fix the problem.
It goes like this: 1. Create a left bend (a lot if he's really naughty). 2. Plant my knuckles into his crest just above his withers so that he can't escape the bend. 3. Send him forward (walk, trot, and canter). 4. Ask for lots of sideways movement with the inside leg. 5. Slow him and lift his outside shoulder with the outside rein. 6. If he can maintain the bend, lift the inside rein to a "normal" position. 7. If he tries to take the take bend away by tipping his nose out, plant the inside hand again.
This exercise is working really well. I couldn't believe how much movement off my leg I was able to get on Monday. And for the first time, I felt what it was like for him to try and take the bend away. I've never felt him try to take it before because I've never felt him actually bending away from my leg with a soft, yielding neck and poll. Until now, that is.
Now that I know what it can feel like, his resistance to the bend feels horrible. I rode on Thursday and just kept chipping away at it until he finally softened his jaw and poll, and moved off of my leg with some lightness. I can feel the pieces to the puzzle trying to slide into place. There's a bending piece, an inside leg piece, and an outside rein piece. I can almost feel how they should go together.
I know I am still trying to make the turns with the inside rein when I am frustrated. But I am now seeing that when he has taken away the bend in his body, he won't turn. What I need is to be absolutely solid with that inside rein so that he hears my outside rein and inside leg. He won't move over if there is somewhere else to go (straight). By planting that inside hand, I am removing an exit. There is nowhere else to go but out.
I know we won't have it mastered by Saturday, but you can bet that I am going to ride with a better understanding of how it should be. Maybe the puzzle pieces will snap together during one of our warm up rides. If not, we have plenty of time to keep working on it.
Here's my weekend schedule.