During the lesson, we worked on a new exercise in an effort to improve our right lead canter departure. Instead of working to the right, we worked to the left, softening the outside (right) rein and getting Sydney to lighten up off it in preparation for needing a softer inside (right) rein while tracking right.
We picked up a left lead canter, and then JL instructed me to stop him hard with the right rein. And nothing happened. It was like pulling on a brick wall. Normally, he makes the downward transition easily because by the time I ask for it, he's getting tired. But when he's fresh, he's apparently quite heavy, not what I thought I had been feeling. So we cantered and HALTED, cantered and HALTED. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Eventually, he started to lighten up off that right rein and started giving me quicker and sharper halts. That's when we started tracking right.
My focus has been to keep the inside bend, while not letting the hind end escape to the outside. As I was struggling with maintaining the bend, JL realized that my inside rein was just long enough to leave gaps in the conversation. In essence, I kept dropping the contact just enough to help fuel Sydney's anxiety.
JL had me shorten my inside rein which really helped me keep an inside bend instead of letting Sydney's neck twang to the outside. All of a sudden the conversation became about maintaing the bend and not about cantering. Sydney didn't care whether he was trotting or cantering, and he did both; he was just trying to bend.
I don't think this is going to be a magic fix, but JL certainly thought it was another piece in our puzzle. I am going to keep working on this as mastering that right lead canter departure is a serious goal for the winter.
Santa? Getting it done by Christmas would be AWESOME!