We did our regular warm-up walk where I flexed his neck to both sides and moved him laterally. He's getting really happy about this work. Then I shortened the reins and asked for a trot. Of course, he worked quite nicely in both directions which made it tough to work on tension. That's okay, I was happy for the good work and praised him enthusiastically. We took a short walk break and moved on to the canter.
He knows when the trot work is just trot work and when the trot work is going to lead to the canter. He immediately tensed up, which was good for me because we finally got to mix it up. Mixing it up means trying to supple him for a few strides, but if he doesn't let go, I have to move on to something totally different to get him to let go through his neck and poll.
As soon as he got tense, JL hand me plant my inside hand on my thigh and use my inside leg to push him out. With my inside hand planted, he can't fight the inside bend. He tried to, but I am pretty solid in my hold so he usually gives up quickly. Once he soften even a little bit, I can ask for a longer stride while keeping my inside hand planted.
Once I can get the longer stride and he feels soft on the inside rein, I can go back to using both reins. From there, I can ask for the canter. On Monday, he tense again and shortened his stride so my hand went back down to my thigh and I pushed him out with my inside leg.
What I LOVED about this exercise is that Sydney can now do a stretchy canter circle without falling on to his forehand. Just as in the trot work, once he quit fighting the inside rein, I asked for a longer stride while my hand was still firmly planted on my thigh. We got some nice and lofty canter work with really good stretch. When he felt forward and soft on the inside rein, I picked up both reins and started to work on collecting his stride.
After picking up both reins, when I felt him get heavy on the inside rein, I gave a big swing to the inside to say let go. It is amazing how that usually tells him to quit hanging on it. After a big swing, I only need to sponge or vibrate the inside rein to say let it go.
To collect his stride, I sent him forward with lots of energy, and then I half halted with lots of leg to bring him back on his haunches a bit. He didn't rock back completely of course, but it is wonderful to feel his croup dip even the slightest as he shifts his weight back.
So, to mix it up, I can do one of these things:
- plant the inside hand and push him to the outside rein so he is in a longer, lower frame
- ask for a longer stride once he has let go of the inside rein
- use both reins and ask for forward
- do a big rocking, swing to ask him to let go
- sponge or vibrate the inside rein to ask him to let it go
- collect him at the canter with a half halt and then push him forward again