After struggling for so many months, Speedy and I have found some common ground. I know that he hasn't had any epiphanies, so the change has clearly been with me. At a lesson with Chemaine in July, she said something about doing things in a different way so that Speedy isn't so resentful. That really resonated with me.
Throughout the month of August, and now into September, I have been riding Speedy with a different attitude. I have been focusing on how we're going, rather than where we're going, and I mean that literally. Rather than just riding a 20-meter circle at A, I am focusing on how we're riding that circle. Is he moving off my inside leg; is he balanced in the corner; is he maintaining a steady rhythm?
I had thought that's what I had been doing for the past three years, but somehow, things are different. I am much more aware of whether he is on my outside left rein or whether he has lost the inside bend. I am much more aware of when he is heavy on my inside left rein, and I know how to ask him to soften off of it. I can definitely feel when he is too much on his forehand, and I now know that lots of transitions help him shift his weight back.
When I rode on Saturday, all of this was on my mind. We did lots of changes of direction which keep Speedy interested in his work and keep him from falling on his forehand. We did a lot of work down centerline and along both long sides. This exercise helps me monitor his rhythm and check for suppleness as we make the turns at A and C.
We also worked on leg yields which show me how well he can move off my inside leg. When he gets sticky, I know to do some turns on the forehand and then move right back to leg yield.
After working on our left lead canter and a shallow counter canter loop, Speedy thought he was finished. When I wanted to do some more work to the right, Speedy threw all of weight to his forehand and simply tuned out my half halts. Without taking it personally, I simply gave him a strong halt and then practiced a rein back without pulling on the reins. I simply kept my hands quiet and spurred until he took some lovely steps backwards. I praised him and repeated the exercise a couple more times.
When I asked for the trot while tracking right, he again fell on my hands so I tried something else. I pushed him forward, forward, forward, and then asked him to shorten his stride. We played this game for a few circles, getting closer and closer to the walk each time. After sending him forward briskly, he finely stepped into a fairly light canter transition for which I praised him immensely. We worked the right lead canter for a few minutes, and then I asked for a downward transition. He gave it willingly, and I called it quits.
Somehow, I have found a way to not take his resistance personally, and as a result, he is feeling less resentful. Our work has become more playful, and we are both enjoying the exercises. Focusing on how we're going rather than on where we're going is proving to be very productive.