We started Monday's lesson with a quick demonstration of a turn on the forehand in both directions followed by turns on the haunches in both directions. JL was quite pleased.
I don't mean to be boastful, but I am a very hard working student. When JL gives me "homework," I do it as thoroughly as humanly possible, even if it means using my kitchen floor. I may not be a straight A student, but I do work hard. As a teacher myself, I would rather have an average student who works hard than a brilliant one who does nothing. So that's me: hard working and average with no brilliance!
Once JL saw that my control had improved over last week, we repeated the exercise that we tried to do the week before, riding the square. We started out at the walk, made a few corrections to my aids, and then we did it at the trot. By the way, I found it is easier to perform at the trot. I think that the suspension generated at the trot makes it easier to influence where the inside hind leg goes.
When it seemed that I had the square down pretty well, we moved on to the long side to check my control of the haunches. In this exercise, I was to keep Speedy's head straight while pushing his haunches into the arena and then out toward the fence. The point of the exercise is to use your seat and legs to move the hind end without using your hands to pull your horse around. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be.
Initially, Speedy REFUSED to have his haunches in while tracking right. Even with the crop, I couldn't make it happen. JL finally suggested I put both reins in my right hand and the crop in my left. This served two purposes: first, I wasn't able to cheat with the reins; all I could use them for was to say no faster. Second, I was able to really back up my leg aid with a smart whack of the crop without jerking the rein.
It took a few whacks, but in no time I had Speedy trotting around with his haunches in the arena and then straight. Once I had him under control and could swing his haunches back and forth while tracking right, we did a change of direction so that I could see how well he moved off my right leg. It took a minute, but Speedy quickly understood the exercise and was happy to move his butt tracking left.
After moving his haunches around, I noticed that he was incredibly soft. All the stiffness and resistance had just melted out of him, and he had a really nice swing going. This is a fun exercise and one that I told JL I want to continue working on. This is clearly the next element that we need to add. When I ride the tests at a show, I feel a certain amount of "out of control." Not that he's going to bolt or anything, but that we're wobbling and zig-zagging all over the place.
Riding the square and controlling the haunches has given me a much better sense of control. I think it was Sally Swift who wrote about energy like water flowing through the banks of a river. If the edges of the river crumble away, the energy of the river leaks out. That is exactly what has been happening to us. Now that we're finally moving somewhere with some impulsion, I need to shore up my river banks to keep the energy moving forward rather than leaking out all over the place. It's a great thing to finally feel.