But he didn't.
I said, noooooo, we're going to beeeeend.
He didn't ...
at least not for about 23 minutes. When he finally did bend, the ride was over.
It sounds simple, but it wasn't. It sounds scary and hard, but it wasn't. Instead, it was a fabulously, wonderful opportunity for me to add to my sense of feel.
As soon as I knew that this wasn't going to be one of those canter-so-that-he'll-move-his-feet rides, I focused completely on my aids. I quieted my hands, lightened my seat, and worked through my core.
For the better part of 20 minutes, I placed my left hand on my thigh to say you can bend while my outside rein said no faster. Any time Sydney loosened his neck and relaxed, I gently gave him the inside rein by lifting my hand back to a regular position. Without fail, he squealed and tried to jerk his head away. He was just having none of it.
I continued on with my hand planted in my thigh and encouraged him to soften his jaw, neck, and shoulders. I even said it out loud. I kept my seat light, but my legs on. When he gave an ounce of softness, I softened every part of my body. When he stiffened back up, usually in the very next stride, I lengthened my back and put my leg back on.
Just a few months ago, I would have been pretty nervous about his desire for an explosion, but now I feel no fear (bye-bye Elephant. Hasta luego!). Chris Cox was right. When we replace fear with knowledge, we have confidence.
As we continued, I started to worry that it might get dark before Sydney finally relaxed and gave me some sequential strides of softness. I doubled my efforts and really focused on what I was trying to achieve. Sally Swift talked about riding with soft eyes. She felt they remove tension from our bodies. I softened my eyes and looked inward. I turned my ear to Sydney and really listened for where the tension was coming from.
I suddenly felt that my outside rein wasn't working together with my inside softening rein. All at once, I felt something click in my brain, and a new AHA hit. In order for the half halt to be effective, the inside rein had to be steady. OOOOHHHHHH!
With a giving inside rein, my half halt was simply wagging his head from side to side. I stiffened my inside rein, and said HALT with the outside. Oh, hallelujah, I got a halt! I asked for a walk, he sprang into a jig, and I repeated the halt. We repeated the exercise several times until he knew what I wanted.
The softness that I'd been searching for happened within just a few minutes. All of a sudden, I understood that I could ask for softness and bend with that inside rein, but I also needed to be firm when I said no faster with my outside rein. The coordination between the two reins suddenly felt like a dance.
No longer was I was "sawing" back and forth. I could genuinely feel the difference between the two reins. One was asking for softness while the other was slowing down the outside shoulder. We were truly connected.
And it was AWESOME!