My feel is getting better and better each week which is fantastic, but the downside to that is that I see more clearly what we need to fix. Right now, there are three major issues staring us down: getting a bend to the left, getting Speedy to move off my inside leg, and now, getting Speedy to give his jaw to the right.
Earlier problems like getting a stretch and getting him to keep his face in front of the vertical are being addressed. Speedy is all about avoiding anything work-like so as we fix one issue, there's another standing in line waiting to take its place.
The three "new" things have an easy cure though. We dealt with all three at the same time by riding a figure 8 (two circles that touch). Tracking left, I have to use a TON of outside rein in order to get an inside bend. Weird description, I know. Speedy's trick is to simply lead with his outside shoulder which requires zero bend or effort to move away from my inside leg.
Once we were tracking left nicely with lots of sideways steps, we did a change of direction ... and promptly fell apart. Speedy wants to travel in a very particular curve: ribs carried to left with his nose tipped to the left. It's a very awkward frame!
As we track left, his nose is tipped correctly, but I have to whale on him to shift his ribcage over onto the outside hind. Tracking right, his ribcage is essentially where I need it, but I have to crank on his head to tip his nose to the right so that his body can follow it.
To begin to correct this head tilt issue, JL had me commit what felt like a cardinal sin: I brought my inside hand up and across his withers. As long as he resisted, I kept it there and asked for forward. As soon as gave even the slightest, I asked for a walk. The point was to tell him that yes, he can do this, and the more quickly that he relaxes, the more comfortable he will be.
Quick interjection: this is not a pain issue. Speedy has had regular (and recent) chiropractic work, saddle fittings, and regular (and recent) dental care. He's just naturally crooked.
The head tilt exercise went something like this: I moved my right hand up and over and held no matter how hard he tried to get away. As soon as he softened, we walked a few strides. We picked up the trot again as I moved my hand into position. We played at it like a game. How quickly could I get him to soften and change the tilt of his nose?
Once he understood that he could "win" by giving, we put everything together in the figure eight. The interesting thing is that everything is solved by more effectively using my right rein. Tracking left I need to be firmer with the right rein to slow his outside shoulder, and tracking right I need make sure I keep his nose tilted in.
As we worked through the figure eight, I had to really focus on the right rein during the 1 or 2 straight strides of the figure eight. If I didn't get it right, Speedy careened through the corner with no bend and I fought with him until we came back to the straight. If I let him "go," we just repeated that circle, or just made it really small, until I had control.
My homework for this week is to ride him slooooowly as we practice making the turns with a correct bend. I should get four good rides on him before I head to Somis for this weekend's clinic. Oh! And good news there - I do get a Friday evening ride with a local trainer before riding with Christian Schacht on Saturday.