What happened is this: we finally got a steady rhythm. We can pretty much tool around at the speed that I ask for. We can do it on a loose rein without the fear of a bolt, rear, or buck. We can canter both directions on that same light contact. We've also achieved a solid degree of relaxation with the longer rein as well as a good connection. Sydney is now traveling with a much more forward way of going which means he has developed some impulsion. We are also much straighter than we've been in the past. But now I am asking him to shorten his frame and shift some of his weight back by changing his longitudinal balance. In other words, some collection.
Don't misunderstand; we haven't mastered the training pyramid. We're starting from the bottom again, but I'm asking him to do more of all of those things; this is hard work.
Instead of riding simply to get him to relax, I am shortening my rein and asking him to work. He needs to start carrying his own head and front end. With the shortened rein comes a loss of tempo - run away! he says. Noooo, I say. My pace is a good one for you. Once he is convinced that I am actually not holding onto him, he settles into the rhythm and then offers some relaxation. He's getting happier with the connection, but to the right, he still wants to hang onto the right rein. This is causing an impulsion problem and some issues with balance.
On Monday, we worked on this issue a lot. We worked first at the trot, and then took that work to the canter. First up was that I had to feel how un-straight (unbalanced) he is tracking right. To support him, I need a lot of outside rein and leg. Once he is securely on the outside rein, (I can tell by how easily I can halt from that rein - if I can't halt, he's leaning on it.) I can start to ask for some bend with the inside rein. When he needs a bit more help, I can use a little bit of inside leg to remind him to move over.
This sounds so easy, but it is very tricky to help balance him to the right. When I ask for a right lead canter, he wants to take the inside bend away and simply collapse into the circle. Picking up the correct lead requires me to literally rub my belly and pat my head. It takes a strong and supportive outside rein and leg combined with a vigilant right rein. He can't pick up the right lead if I let him take the right rein away.
It's not like there's any rush to get it, but boy did we work hard on Monday. I have a week and a half to work on it before my next lesson. I sure would like to show JL some progress between now and then!
Maybe if I walk and chew gum and rub my belly while patting my head I will develop some better coordination of the aids!