A week or so ago, I watched my BO take a lesson. She's working on developing the feel of steady contact so her lesson was mostly walking with some trot work. It was a great lesson for me to watch as I am working on confirming my contact at the canter. Watching her develop the feel of steady contact at the walk was like watching the process in slow motion. It was very helpful.
The number one issue that my BO had was letting the horse take the contact from her. She could tell when this would happen because all of sudden she would have straight arms with no bend in her elbows. JL would remind her to bend her elbows and shorten her reins. How many times have I heard those words?
The second issue RM dealt with was not using enough outside rein. Sounds familiar. Seeing it happen from the sidelines helped paint a very clear picture for me as the observer. As soon as RM's lesson was finished, I zipped back over to our barn and saddled up Speedy. We got to work on the canter, specifically to the left where he tends to get really heavy. Keeping in mind what I had just watched, I refused to let him take the contact from me.
I didn't hold him up, but rather I pulsed the inside rein to say let go, and I lifted his outside shoulder with the outside rein. I didn't let him pull the reins forward. If he got too heavy, I added lots of leg, and I made my circle smaller and smaller. When he lightened up, I made the circle larger.
Over the last week, I've worked on our canter departures and transitions back to trot always keeping in mind that he can't take the contact back. When I rode on Tuesday, I was particularly pleased with his canter; it wasn't perfectly uphill, but he has certainly lightened up a bit which makes the turns easier to navigate and the downward transition much softer.
I think we might be making a bit of forward progress! Lesson later today - hopefully we can show JL the improvement.