I am happy to report that my little gray pony is making a comeback. I am starting to see glimpses of the horse who was earning scores in the high 60s, the horse that I thought was ready to try First Level, the horse who had finally figured out how to bend. We're not completely back in fighting trim, but we're getting there.
Saturday we worked on 10-meter figure eights. I love this exercise because it really helps me feel where he is losing his balance. He's more balanced to the left, but harder to bend. He has trouble making the turn to the right because he kind of wants to fall over. I have to really support him with my inside leg to outside rein. I love that I know what that feels like!
Once he feels a little more even in my hands, I change the figure eight into rectangles. I track right at C, track right at B, and come back down centerline where I track left to E. I switch it up all over the arena so Speedy never knows if we're going straight or making a 10-meter turn. And then, just to really shake it up, I'll cross the diagonal and do a few 20-meter circles to let him "rest."
We've also been working on the canter loops from First Level, Test 3. Last December, he couldn't hold a counter canter at all. In June, we could kind of hold it. Now, his canter is so much lighter and rhythmical that I can do the loops even in my short arena (20m by 50m). They're not show worthy of course, but he can maintain the gait. Over the weekend, I crossed X and pushed him to the left in a right lead canter. As we approached S, I felt him shift his weight back even more so that he lifted his front end to return to a correct bend as we tracked right to C.
I haven't schooled the counter canter with a trainer, and I am not 100% sure how the canter loops are to be ridden, but we are having fun playing around with them. They definitely help lighten Speedy's canter. And I think he likes doing them.
My goal right now is to get him as fit and balanced as I can before mid-December when we clinic with Christian Schacht again. That gives me just under three weeks. We've got some more work to do, but I think we'll be ready.
But best of all, Speedy's fun to ride again!