I am really focused on the stretchy trot right now. I finally, finally "get it." I am not getting it perfectly, but I now see how to get it. The stretchy trot is really just one way to demonstrate that your horse is working over his top line. I am discovering that both of my boys need more stretch and reach in general, not just for movements 7 & 12 of the Training Level Tests.
The May issue of Dressage Today made several references to the stretchy trot. The best one appeared in a "What I Wish I'd Known Then" piece written by Doreen Horsey. She writes, "The relaxed, swinging back improves the paces, encourages a soft chewing of the bit and acceptance of the forward driving aids. The horse can now meet the Training Level test purpose... This throughness must be further developed and maintained throughout the horse's training for success at the advanced levels." In other words, you're not going to rise through the levels if your horse can't, or won't, stretch.
I have another lesson tonight where I hope we'll continue working on encouraging Speedy to stretch forward. I worked on the concept on Sunday and was relatively pleased with what he offered. It's not a show worthy stretchy trot, yet, but at least I am finally seeing what I need to do to get him there.
Just like at last week's lesson, I started at the walk. I can now feel that his walk lacks march. His hind end is being dragged along by his front end. This isn't going to help anything. So, I clamped my legs on and sent him marching. When I could feel that he was truly marching forward, I pushed my hands forward slightly and asked him to reach. When he did, I quit asking for quite as much forward. The instant he dropped the contact, I widened my hands, leaned back, and SQUEEZED.
When he was marching along pretty steadily at the walk, I asked for a slow trot and repeated the exercise. By the time that Speedy really gets this, I am going to have thighs of iron; my tube of toothpaste is in a tin can! Even though Speedy's reach is very small, there's still a reach.
It's a lot like knowing that 2 + 2 = 4; once you know it, you can't unknow it. I know the feeling that I am working for. We'll get there.