Being above the bit or behind the bit is a result of poor feel on the rider's part; that would be me. I am slowly understanding what I need to do/feel to "catch" him before either one of those things happens. The best strategy for preventing either thing is to shorten my reins. I've done that. The next thing I had to learn was to be much quicker to add leg and less eager to use my hands. We seem to have "fixed" that, too.
Before I rode on Monday, my BO had her lesson. There is nothing better than watching someone who is just learning what you have already learned. It was a free lesson for me. As she was riding, her gelding's nose kept coming above the vertical. Right away, it popped into my head that I know how to fix that! Sure enough, JL told her to add leg and quit leaning forward. The rider has to set the parameters and the horse has to come to her.
Watching it happen as opposed to riding it, really helped it make perfect sense. It is so obvious when you see the rider letting her arms get longer and longer and her body begin to tilt forward. Doh! I was struggling with those same ideas, but I am finally getting that I am not helping my horses by letting my arms move forward. This just help them be heavy on the forehand.
As soon as RM's lesson was over, I hopped up on Speedy with all of JL's recent suggestions to RM ringing in my ears. I also had a very good mental picture of what giving the rein away looks like and what happens when you let your body lean forward.
I let JL know that I was feeling anxious about looking inadequate and too inexperienced for the clinic. I asked if we could just work on pulling together the last few ideas that we've been working on without really throwing in anything new.
We started out at the trot. JL was quite happy with how well Speedy was pushing off with his hind end. I've gotten much better at catching him when he even thinks about dropping behind the vertical. And the best part was that I could feel it start to happen before JL even gave me one of her, "Oops!" comments.
When Speedy thinks about dropping behind the vertical, I "lift" him back up by adding leg without letting my hands push forward. He doesn't get to go faster. He can speed up his butt, or slow down the front, but I am not letting him fall apart. His head up with hind legs two strides behind means that his back is hollow and he's not round. If he gets a chance to drop the contact and fall behind the vertical, I know that he is just preparing to let his hind legs slow down which will hollow his back and send his nose into the air.
It's like riding a handheld accordion; there's a whole lot of keeping his front and back ends in the right place.
My lesson went really well. Speedy and I were able to do some lovely figure eights without a loss of contact when I changed rein. We also schooled the left lead canter just a bit. JL suggested I really get him off my inside rein during my warm up. While on a left lead, I exaggerate the bend so much to the inside that she can see both eyes while I keep him out on the circle with my inside leg. When I return to a normal bend, his neck is much more supple.
It shouldn't feel like a show, but it does. I just want to show up prepared to ride my best for the clinician. I feel like if I have some basics under control, we might be ready for something more. I think we're ready for this weekend's ride.