We worked on several things the afternoon before the show including lengthening the stride at both trot and canter, leg yielding, and the canter departure. All of this work depends on a well-timed half halt, which I do yet possess.
Speedy is quite resistant to any kind of halt unless he is ready to be done. To help Speedy develop more of an interest in the half halt, Chemaine gave me a new exercise to do while warming up. She suggested I do a halt at each letter, but before allowing him to move on, he has to soften and drop his head ever so slightly. From there, I can release a bit while asking him to walk on. I can see that with a bit of practice, not only will our medium walk improve, but he will get much more responsive to my half halt.
After halting at each letter, we moved on to the trot where we only did an almost walk at each letter. This really tested whether he was listening. If he wasn't, I made it a complete halt with the same soften and lower your head request from earlier. This to got him much more respectful of my outside rein.
When we moved on to the lengthen stride at trot, this work at the half halt was integral. As we made the corner, Chemaine had me really get him back on his haunches so that as we left the corner for the lengthen across the diagonal, I had a bunch of energy coiled up ready to release. When I half halted him correctly, there actually was a lengthening of stride. It was the first time that I have been able to ask for the lengthening and get it!
Since I now have established some inside bend (poke him! - as Chemaine would say), making the ten-meter half circles is fairly easy. Speedy still needs a bit more bend, especially to the right, but when I use my outside rein effectively, the ten-meter circles are easy. They are important as they are where the leg yield begins.
I have been schooling that movement, but I wasn't being very effective because my weight aids were a little off. To do the leg yield correctly, I need to turn my shoulders in the direction of the bend, while pushing him away. My tendency has been to turn and look in the direction I was trying to go. Your body should really stay turned like it was for the 10-meter circle.
Once my shoulders were turned in and my inside seat bone was weighted, we did a pretty decent leg yield.The one thing that we really need to work on is keeping it rhythmical and moving forward. On my score sheet, the judged also noted that Speedy's haunches were trailing.
The lengthening of stride at canter is not a problem, getting Speedy back to working canter is. This is another place where the half halt needs to be better executed. Chemaine pointed out that there is no reason he can't come back to working canter easily; it's just a gas peddle and the brake. His brake peddle definitely needs some work.
For First Level, my job is going to be improving our half halt. All of a sudden I truly see the value of transitions. You hear all of these things: inside leg to outside hand, more bend, and so on, but until you actually feel something, they are just words. More transitions is no longer just an exercise to do to avoid boredom. I can see that Speedy and I need to do bunches and bunches of them to get him listening to my half halt and expecting the cue to move forward again.
Chemaine showed me several other exercises and gave me other things to work on, but you get the idea. She is great at filling the lesson with lots of new without overwhelming me with everything that needs fixing. For now, working on my half halts will no doubt improve a lot of other things.