If you'll remember, Speedy and I had a frustrating lesson last Monday night. Our left lead canter has shown steady progress, but that right lead take off is crooked and crazy. If we were an airplane, we'd be veering all over the runway scattering ground crew and luggage.
My homework for the week was to straighten Speedy up by getting him off my outside leg so that he can support his weight on his own outside leg. The added benefit is that when he carries his own weight on that outside leg, he can't let it fly in an I-don't-wanna-shot-to-the-moon.
We worked on the canter departure on Wednesday and Thursday and Friday. On Saturday, something clicked. Speedy finally did a quiet right lead canter that was fairly straight and buck free. Even better was his downward transition - smooth as silk!
For Saturday's ride, I focused completely on his right side. After warming up, I asked him to trot while tracking right, but I put him in a slight counter bend around a 20-meter circle. Once he did that pretty willingly, I maintained the bend, but let him track left for a 10 meter circle on the correct bend. As he finished the 20-meter circle, we went back on the larger circle, still counter bent.
I've "drawn" a little sketch in hopes that you can see what I mean.
I again asked for the counter bend trot and told him to get ready for the canter. When we trot, JL has me "help" him (when needed) by alternately pulsing both reins to remind him not to pop up but rather to lift his back. I tried to achieve that same feeling at the canter: as I sat and moved my outside leg back, I started rocking the outside rein just a little to remind him to get back on his own outside leg. The first departure wasn't beautiful, but there was no bucking and the quality of the canter got really nice within a stride or two. We repeated the departure three or four more times, and each time was better than the one before.
It might not have looked great to the casual observer, but I felt that we had nailed it. Just to let Speedy know how much I appreciated his effort, we took a small trail ride around the neighborhood where he got to eat all the winter grass that he wanted. He looked pretty happy when we got back home.
Atta boy, Speedy G!