Before I even start my lessons I always give JL a quick summary of what I've been working on and what hasn't gone well. I also point out what is working. I don't want her to think we completely stink! On Wednesday I told her that I am through with Speedy's aversion to Steady Contact. They've met, but Speedy just hasn't cozied up to the guy. He's in front of the contact .. now he's behind ... oops, there he goes in front ... again. Damn it! Just shake hands with the guy and get over it!
Jl had a plan. Today we were going to meet Steadier Contact. Ooh, I like the guy already! With a name like that, who wouldn't? Steadier Contact requires leg, lots of leg. Here was the plan: Ask for a walk but DO NOT let the nose pop up. To keep his nose in place, I used a lot of sliding hands with as much leg as I could. I squeezed him forward and kept his nose where it is supposed to be. Now before you get all that's not riding with your seat! You need to know that Speedy has learned every trick in the book for evading contact. This lesson was to teach him that I wasn't going to let him be above the bit, and behind the bit earned some big time leg with a tap, tap, tap of the whip.
Once we were walking with Speedy accepting the bit (maybe not entirely on the bit, but at least accepting), I squeezed him forward into a slow sitting trot. I did the same thing as before: LOTS of sliding hands to keep his nose from popping up with even more leg to drive him forward.
The next step in JL's plan was to go from the slow sitting trotting to back, back, back, and then right back forward to walk, walk, walk, to sitting trot. All the while I was to apply strong legs to MOVE HIM FORWARD and strong sliding hands to say NOPE! to the popped up nose. So we went forward .... back ... forward. And oh, the naughtiness! Speedy has learned some pretty good evasive maneuvers. His favorite is to let his outside fall out. To combat this, JL had me "protect" the outside with lots of outside leg and a "supporting" outside rein.
Once Speedy was moving nicely from walk to trot (oh, Hallelujah - finally!), we moved to canter. Let's just say that his trot improved immediately, but the canter transitions involved even more falling out with lots of kicking and bucking. In an effort to keep this shortish, I repeated the walk to trot exercise at the trot to canter but without the backing part. It wasn't great, but I started working on some big problems and found some great solutions.
I've heard it said that nothing improves the lower gait like working on an upper gait. Boy is that the truth! I think JL just dumped several awesome power tools into my little dressage toolbox. Look out Speedy G. You and Steadier Contact are going to be great pals!