I had a lesson on Monday after the Christian Schacht Clinic. I am sure Speedy G would have preferred to have the evening off; I know I would have. For all my big talk about doing this all day, I was tired from the weekend's riding and traveling. Even so, I knew that I needed to be debriefed while I still remembered what had gone on.
We spent at least 15 minutes just talking about the experience: my near exit, my recovery, and even the exercises themselves. JL was able to offer some explanation about some of the exercises and then we came up with some strategies for how to implement what I had learned in an effort to guide JL's instruction as I continue to move forward.
Please excuse the expression, but JL is not one to blow smoke up your ass. And by that I mean, there are not very many compliments. She isn't looking for clients and doesn't need to stroke anyone's ego in an effort to keep them in her barn. She acknowledges correct riding with a simple, there - did you feel that? Her criticisms are also very limited. She doesn't yell or humiliate. The worst you'll hear is, oh, not quite.
So when I realized that JL was quite pleased with my report of what had happened at the clinic. I knew I had done a good job. She noticed, which I had failed to see, that Christian didn't address any of the things that she and I have been working on. To her, that meant that I had those things together. Before leaving for the clinic, we had agreed that the clinic would be a sort of assessment of where I was, and where I should be heading. We had felt that my work at training level was solid and that we should start working on the First Level movements. My feedback from the clinician was going to be my report card. Guess what's at First Level? Yep, leg yields and counter canter; the two things we did a lot of at the clinic. This seemed to suggest that I was indeed ready to move on.
The rest of Monday's lesson was devoted to leg yields. Here is how JL explained it: It is important to feel all four legs solidly underneath me; they are the pillars that hold us up. To correctly yield, Speedy must be essentially straight as he moves forward, but to the side. Okay, got that!
She had me choose something to look at (we don't have a dressage court) so I picked a distant tree that was more or less in the center of the fence. As I made the turn, she instructed me to look for the tree. Before beginning the leg yield, I was to be sure that we tracked straight for a stride or two. Once I felt straightness, I was to use my inside leg to send him sideways. If his head began drifting to the outside, I wasn't slowing the outside shoulder enough. If his head bent to far to the inside, I was using too much inside rein.
The exercise went something like this: ask for sideways, slow the outside shoulder/keep a little inside bend, repeat. Leg yield to the left went fairly well - for a first real lesson. Leg yield right was another story ...
Speedy just wouldn't yield. We made several attempts before JL realized that I had adequate control of his outside should and the bend, but I had zero control over his haunches. For the next attempt, JL instructed me to stop him as soon as he ignored my aids and do a turn on the forehand.
Oh ... yep. That was the problem. Speedy was ignoring my inside leg. All of a sudden I remembered that Christian had told me to move my leg slightly behind the girth. No wonder! We never actually got any yielding from Speedy, but by moving my inside leg back and doing several turns on the forehand, I was able to keep him straight and feel that he was almost ready to yield. That was good enough for me.
I had a lot of fun at the lesson. JL confirmed for me, without being anywhere near effusive, that my seat, legs, and core were solid. She agreed that my riding position was nice, and that I now appear to understand steady contact. It was fun to be able to move on to other tasks. At one point during the lesson, I could sense that Speedy was about to become frustrated with the leg yield attempts, so I took a tip from Christian and moved on to the canter. I let Speedy really lengthen and then worked on spiral in and spiral out. JL liked that I could feel the need to switch up the exercise. After the canter work, we went back to leg yield and my pony was much happier.
All I can say is, yah for stretching your envelope and getting pushed out of your comfort zone!