He was suddenly softer and more supple throughout his body. I kept the ride short, only 15 minutes, but in that time, we managed to both trot and canter quietly. Saturday was nearly the same. By Sunday, some of the wiggles had returned, but I schooled through them easily.
I've never had a horse who wasn't naturally balanced in the walk, so it's not a gait that I've schooled a lot. Izzy is not balanced at the walk. With Chemaine's comments ringing in my ear, I've started to play around with the walk as an end in itself, not just as a way to rest my horse.
I can now feel that Izzy wants to fall forward and scramble at the walk. By using a firm half halt and compressing his frame, I can ask him to come off the bit and soften. When he does, I can soften in return and then ask for a longer stride. The more I practice this compress, soften, lengthen exercise, the more quickly he is starting to soften and as a result, his walk is getting longer and more relaxed - exactly what we've been missing at shows!
Tracking right means that I need to work the outside rein to keep his shoulders in line, but the inside rein needs work as well to get some bend. When we track left, it's almost all outside rein - the right. When I get him to let go of that rein, the bend comes more easily.
As we've been working the canter, I've paid much more attention to the idea of getting his poll and jaw to loosen rather than focusing on his neck. Once I can get his rhythm under control with a huge half halt, I then use a milking the cow image as I massage the reins in his mouth. His canter has gotten better and better over the past two weeks.
We're going to a California Dressage Society show on Sunday. CDS shows are normally judged more strictly than are schooling shows, but not usually as tough as the judging at a USDF show. With a only a few days until the show, my focus is to continue improving the walk. If I can get a relaxed walk in the ring, Izzy's level of relaxation will improve, which should help our overall score.
We were so close to a 60% at our last show. Maybe this will be it, and if not, it doesn't really matter as we'll keep working anyway.
Walk on, Dude, walk on!