Over the past two weeks, I've been repeating the spiral in exercise, and I am getting definite improvement each day. Spiral in is pretty much the same no matter what your focus. In this particular version of the exercise, I am keeping the outside rein pretty solidly locked down as I ask for inside bend and softening on the inside rein. To achieve this, I am "bouncing" the inside rein and then letting it go, but not so much that he becomes counter flexed.
To the left, this is all relatively easy as he already wants to bend left and carry his haunches left. Tracking right is much more difficult for him because his body doesn't want to bend to the right. He avoids stretching through his ribcage by carrying his haunches to the outside.
With Izzy, the spiral in to the right started to feel like half passe because it took so much outside leg to keep his haunches to the inside. And as I slowly increased the bend, I had to also really ride the shoulders to keep them from pivoting to the outside. When I got it in my mind that it was almost like a half passe, it got easier to ride because I just thought about pushing his body to the right.
Once he can make a 10-meter circle and keep the inside rein soft, we spiral back out. Since his haunches and shoulders want to fly all over the place, I have to really focus on a steady outside rein to keep the shoulders and haunches aligned so that he has to truly leg yield out on the circle. I think we were both caught by surprise when I really got his inside hind to actually step forward and over.
This spiral in and leg yield out exercise is also helping the canter departures. The more control I have over the inside bend and the placement of his haunches, the more I can control the canter. On Sunday, I had to remind him a few times that he doesn't get to run through my aids, but after that, we got the best left lead canter departure we've had to date.
I've been using that idea this week, and it is really helping. I've been able to half halt more rhythmically which prevents him from galloping away on his forehand. I also got a really nice right lead canter, but of course, tracking right requires a whole different set of aids.
To the right, it's not about getting him to half halt, but rather keeping him bent to the right from nose to tail. What I felt on Sunday afternoon's ride was the need to get him soft on my inside rein so that he had room for the canter. I know that doesn't make any sense, but when he leans or grabs that inside rein, it forces me to hold him which means he can't push up and into the contact.
I worked with him for several long minutes at the trot insisting that he stay bent and soft. All the while, I kept quietly asking for a canter. I could feel him shifting, trying to find that moment of balance. He finally picked up the right lead, and while it was a bit wild and wooly to start, he ultimately let go of the tension and allowed himself a right bend. All of a sudden the right lead canter was balanced and easy for him. He even stretched down while he was cantering and did it with the lightest contact.
Step by step, this horse is really starting to impress me. He's not easy exactly, but he is very talented and likes to be successful. I can't wait to see where he is a year from now. Just one year ago, he was in the midst of a traumatic leg injury, was on his third living arrangement in a month, and was being trailered regularly for the first time in his life. He's come a long way since last January!