Lessons on Sydney are nothing like lessons on Speedy. When I ride Speedy with JL, I warm up, but then I wait for instructions. She always has a plan for what we're going to do next. Usually something has occurred to her while working with her own horse, or she finally lands on a solution for a particular problem that I've been having. I can almost guarantee that next Monday we'll be doing the (damn) stretchy trot.
Lessons with Sydney are different. Generally, I start to warm up and then go through my ride as JL assesses our progress since the last time she saw him. There's always progress, thankfully. We see her every 4 - 6 weeks. She usually spots one thing that I'm missing that she thinks will get me to the next step. Last time, she had me shorten the reins again, lower my hands as much as I could, and keep them as quiet as possible.
As I warmed up, I showed JL how well the hand planted in thigh thing works. She agreed. We picked up the trot and after just a few minutes I cued for the left lead canter and got it with no fuss or muss. JL's jaw almost dropped open. It was kind of funny actually. I asked for a downward transition and was rewarded with a very nicely balanced trot. I repeated the canter cue and got more of the same.
As I was working Sydney, I was also telling JL about my light bulb moment from last week. You might remember it. It was that whole thing about giving the inside rein while using the outside rein to say, no faster. Again, her jaw dropped. She asked how long I've had such a nice left lead canter. I explained that it started to really develop after the clinic with Christian. She couldn't believe how much feel I had developed in just three weeks. She was really pleased.
She asked to see the right lead canter. To the right takes a lot more effort. Sydney still wants to just roll over like a barrel when tracking this direction. I have to use a lot of inside leg, lift the inside rein, and weight my outside stirrup. When he's really leaning on my inside leg, I go back to one of JL's exercises where I make the circle quite small. She calls this letting the geometry explain the concept. Sure enough, this stood him up a bit better and he moved away from my inside leg.
Our first effort at the right lead canter was what I expected. I wish I could explain what he's actually doing, but it feels like he's pivoting on his inside hind leg and falling in. If I let him, I think we might actually begin our canter heading 45 degree to the right instead of straight ahead. My correction for this is a super quick upward jerk on the inside rein with a whamo from my inside leg. As soon as he moves off my leg, the correction stops. It usually only takes a stride or two before he gives and moves away. JL thought my correction was very appropriate and not at all too "loud."
To my relief, she didn't have to tell me to quiet anything. She felt like my feel and corrections were subtle and that the volume was quite appropriate. As we continued with the right lead canter, she suggested that I bring my hands closer together and try to swing (give and take) less and less. It was a good catch as he got more and more balanced. She also suggested I try to get him more uphill with my outside rein so that it would be easier for him to lift the inside shoulder.
We transitioned back to trot and repeated the right lead canter several times. Each time got better and better. My homework until the next lesson is to get my hands closer together for the right lead canter and try to get him more uphill with the outside rein.
You should see the ridiculously huge smile on my face. This horse and I have made some great progress. And whether we make it to any shows or not this year doesn't matter one bit. I am enjoying riding Sydney, and I know he is enjoying the work. If dressage really is about the journey, we're having a great trip!