Although, even when it's brutally hard work and I am struggling with a concept, I still call them great lessons. This one was particularly fun though as we pushed Sydney just a bit, but instead of him feeling stressed and worried about the new element, he dug deep and gave willingly. I just loved that!
JL's plan for us has been to get his trot more balanced as we move to the right lead canter. Then we canter a bit to the right and before he has too much time to get anxious, we change the conversation a bit by tracking left.
We followed that plan on Monday; I worked hard on suppling his neck to the right to get some inside bend, and I made sure to eliminate any of the hurried steps that indicate he's getting anxious. He picked up a decent right lead canter which we rode until he was relatively soft. We even spiraled in to a fairly small circle, all of which he handled quite well.
We walked for a moment and then JL instructed me to track left. As usual, he had worked himself into some tension because he realized that we were now working. No biggie. I insisted on a marching walk to trot transition, which he eventually gave me. He lost some of his earlier impulsion and energy, but with some insistence on my part (yah, me!), he loosened back up pretty quickly, and we got back to work.
When we picked up the left lead canter, JL decided it was time for a more uphill canter. Ooh la la can that boy canter! I shortened my reins and half halted, half halted, half halted. To keep him uphill, I rode the canter in a square. We rode a few strides straight, and then using my outside aids to lift his shoulder, we turned. A few straight strides, and turn; straight strides, and turn; straight strides, and turn. I had a big smile on my face; he was really nicely balanced and had definitely rocked back onto his haunches. It was the nicest canter we've ever done.
And then it was back to the right. We're getting better to the right, but it's like getting on a different horse. JL had a few suggestions to help him be better balanced:
- He can't look to the outside, ever.
- If he resists the inside bend, I need to really pull his head around without letting him just fall in, which requires a lot of outside rein and inside leg.
- As we make the bend of the circle, I always need to be riding him "sideways."
- When I ask for the right lead canter, I need to ask very quietly, as I do to the left, but since I know he's not balanced enough to offer it right away, I need to repeat the request just as softly. I was asking too hard the second time which was "surprising" him into a frantic scramble. If I am a bit more patient, he can organize himself a little more calmly.
We had a great time. He's fun to ride, and I am learning so much on him. I would love to be able to show him right now as I know he's fancy and could get really good scores, but that might never happen. I am okay with it though. For now, getting that kind of work out of him is all I really need.