I can feel that we've taken some backwards steps. Or, more likely, while Speedy was getting fat and sassy, I was developing better balance and feel. The work I've been doing with JL to keep Sydney balanced enough to pick up that right lead canter has been very constructive. And as tough as that clinic was (maybe someday I'll share the whole story), I had some serious AHA! moments there as well.
So poor Speedy; he's living a Rip Van Winkle story. He takes a little break, but when he comes back, his whole world has changed! I know I'm riding better so my expectations for the gray pony have really changed.
The first thing I need to address, and it's only going to happen through lessons and clinics, is how heavy he is on the left rein. It doesn't matter which direction we track; he is always 80% on that rein. When we track left, my outside (right) rein hangs there limp and hollow. If I release the inside rein, his nose immediately falls to the outside. When we track right, I feel as though if I were to drop the contact, he'd probably do a spectacular roll over and we'd go up in flames.
His trot work is so heavy now (or maybe it always was?) that I can literally hear his front feet slamming into the ground. And if I don't watch every step, he'll stumble and trip. (It's not a neurological thing, I promise.) Speedy has a noodle of a neck so to avoid the contact, he tucks his little nose between his two from legs.
My only solution has been to give a very strong half halt (that really means a sharp jerk on the rein) and add a ton of leg. With that correction, he flings his head back up, but I can't keep him from curling back under. We just go round and round doing the same thing. Even if I switch it up and do serpentines to ten-meter circles, to loops, I end up fighting the same battle.
It's a lot like riding a loaded wheelbarrow: his front end is driving into the ground while his hind end isn't carrying any weight.