JL didn't have much to say about it on Monday so we moved Sydney right into the right lead canter work. OH MY GOODNESS! The first few transitions were lovely. He was uphill, balanced and very manageable. Captain Awesome was wor-k-ing it!
So we decided to try out the one loop canter from First Level. JL's working end of the arena is too small to do it correctly, but we were able to at least come off the rail for a few strides and then go back. With just that little bit of counter canter, JL was able to offer some exercises to keep Sydney on the right lead without dropping back to trot. I'll share that exercise another day. Suffice it to say, we actually could do the counter canter part of the loop without too much effort.
About half way through the lesson, Sydney's balance went to hell. He got tense and anxious which gave me a chance to really school the right lead canter. When he's relaxed, the right lead is now dependable and quite nice. It's when his neck and jaw are tight that I have so much trouble. Each week, JL has helped me deconstruct the canter so that I can build it back up. The neck and poll are now the trouble spot.
When Sydney is tense, he really wants to look to the outside which makes picking up the right lead canter impossible. I can try over and over, but I get a left lead every time. So JL had me work Sydney's neck and poll from the trot to show him what I wanted.
I've already shared (many times) the crabbing thing where I send his hindquarters in so that they line up behind his shoulders. That's the first part. I also have to have a solid feel on the outside rein so that he doesn't drop his inside shoulder and roll over. I have those two elements down pat.
The problem now is that I need to get Sydney's neck absolutely straight so that I can't see his outside eyeball; that's my reference point. When I can see his outside eye, it means he is pulling on the inside rein and tipping his nose to the outside.
To fix this, JL had me pulse that inside rein over and over to tell Sydney to let it go. I only managed to get one correct right lead canter, but now that I have a feeling for what needs to happen to get a right lead canter when he's that stiff and anxious, I am pretty sure I'll get better and better.
The trick is to get his neck very straight, pulse that inside rein, and then sit ABSOLUTELY still as we go through the canter departure. While he's trying to get his legs coordinated, if I lean forward even a hair, he picks up the left lead.
Sydney and I are going to a schooling show on Sunday. I have one more lesson with JL before that show. Firming up the right lead canter is my goal, but I am not going to be disappointed if we flub that part of the test. We'll just keep fine tuning until we get it fixed.