I was so excited for Monday's lesson. I actually felt as though Sydney and I had taken a huge step forward. And it's only partly due to the clinic; JL herself played a big role. She has been working very hard to help me help Sydney rebalance himself so that we can pick up that right lead canter nicely. The key has been to keep a steady feel on the outside rein while not letting his haunches escape to the outside.
When I rode on Sunday, I started out with Susanne's exercises. After doing the walk work, I went right into the up, up, sit exercise. For those of you working on your two-point, consider trying this exercises as it gives you a moment to release your muscles in the sit phase of the exercise. Even so, up, up, sit is hard work, but it is amazing how it helps the rider maintain a softer rhythm.
After that exercise, I juggled my way around the arena, and then I did some seat massaging. That's the one where you land your seat bone in a different spot. By the time I had run through each of the exercises, Sydney was super relaxed and ready to canter.
As I shortened my reins to prepare for the canter, I was shocked to realize that we were tracking right, his more difficult direction. All of the exercises that we had done had worked to soften and balance him so much that it felt like we were on his better direction. I decided to go for it and was rewarded with a solid right lead canter that was free of bucks and squeals. Holy crap.
When I got to JL's on Monday for my lesson, I told her about the exercises and asked if I could just show them to her and then go straight to the right lead canter. She agreed of course, and was quite pleased with how much better put together we were.
So there I was juggling and dancing in the saddle. Sydney gave lots of happy snorts and played the good pony. And just like I knew he would, he picked up a lovely right lead canter. I was grinning from ear to ear.
JL was really happy with our work. She tweaked a few things here and there, like my tendency to over-ask for the canter, but overall, Sydney and I had finally reached a place where there was no drama. After all of the smoke and bombs of the last few weeks, a drama free ride was a deep relief.
Before we finished, I brought up one finally point of Susanne's: the rider's shoulders must always stay above the pelvis. I know this is a problem for me. Occasionally, especially at the canter, I get left behind. JL had a brilliant solution. Instead of just thinking about keeping my chest over my pelvis, she had me think of not letting my chest and belly over extend. If you're sitting down, lean back, that's how I over-extend.
During the canter, your pelvis kind of scoops forward. If you let it, your spine will allow your head and shoulders to stay behind the motion forcing you to whiplash your shoulders into place. That's what I've been doing.
The whole lesson only lasted about a half an hour. Sydney was relaxed and happy and cantering both directions without falling in or bucking or rearing. Before I ever grouse about a lesson again, I am going to give it a few days to allow the information to actually sink in. And if you ever get a chance to audit one of Susanne von Dietze's clinics, I strongly suggest you do it. All I can say is ... wow.