So what does all of this mean and why should anyone care? Well, really, no one besides Sydney and I probably care, but what it means is that we are starting to really get this ball rolling.
My number one goal for this summer has been to get a consistent, right lead canter departure. I can check that off my list. I've moved on to maintain a consistently, round and balanced right lead canter. We're rock solid to the left so that was never even a factor in my whole goal-setting agenda. To the right, we are not quite there, but we are looking mighty fine.
I've been writing about this "chute" exercise. I circle at "A" on a right lead canter (not really as we don't have a dressage court, but you get the idea), and then canter down the long side which is a narrow chute between the fence and the jumps. At Monday's lesson, we cantered it on the right lead without any drama. Can you see me raising the roof?
The first step is to get his haunches behind his shoulders and his nose on the rail. This feels horribly wrong and crooked, but it has become my new normal. JL assures me that when I ride him this way, he is actually quite straight. Once he is "straight," I can then work the inside rein for some bend and flexion. JL points out that to the right, I have to actually ride outside leg to inside hand. Very non-traditional, I know, but it works.
As long as he is straight, I can ask almost anything of him, and he is happy to try. In order to come out of a turn and canter the long side on the right lead, I have to:
- maintain that straightness by keeping my outside leg back to keep his haunches from falling out;
- hold that outside rein very firm and steady;
- encourage him to step away from the rail;
- add inside leg to keep him going forward;
- and finally, work the inside rein to remind him that I want to stay on the right lead. If he gets long in his neck or gets his nose to the outside of his haunches, he falls into a trot and swaps leads.
The greatest part to all of this is that Sydney is still a difficult horse to ride. He's reactive, a bit spooky, and wants to bolt, but now that I can keep him between my aids, his moments of anxiety are getting shorter and shorter and are over with as soon as I sit back and give a strong half halt. I no longer have any Oh, sh*t! moments (although I am sure that I just jinxed myself).