Since I can't take a lesson right now, I called my trainer instead. After listening to what was going wrong, Chemaine pointed out that it sounded like Izzy had gone back a few months in his training. She asked me what had worked in the spring to get him back on my side, and then she reminded me that I had been working him in the sliding side reins.
Palm to face. Oh yeah.
I had actually been thinking of giving them another go, but things had sort of escalated in the two days before Sunday's show, and I didn't have time to give them a try.
From the minute I stood back and asked him to step forward, I was amazed at how much his gaits have improved over the past several months. His walk is freer and his stride is longer. When I asked him to trot and then canter, everything that is happening under saddle was made plainly obvious.
After watching my video from Sunday's show, Chemaine's critique was that i am not riding him forward enough. That's a tough one for me because if I let him go bigger, he dives onto his forehand. When he's using so much power behind and falling onto my hands, my balance and core strength aren't developed enough to keep my own self in place. We end up fighting against each other.
On the lunge line, I could see this happening. Izzy pushes so big with his hind end, but his front end can't keep up so he scrambles and hollows his back. When I used the sliding side reins in the spring, I encouraged him to slow down to find his balance. This time, since he is stronger and has slightly better balance, I decided to let him fight himself.
Eventually, I saw him relax his back and lift his front end. It was the best I've ever seen him move. While it was lovely to see, it also left me feeling a bit frustrated as I want to get that quality of movement while I ride.
I played around with trot to canter transitions and found that if I just let him go forward, he did eventually find his balance. Tracking left was a lot harder for him. He careened around quite a bit before he softened his topline and lifted his withers.
I only lunged him for 20 minutes, but by the end of that time, he was blowing pretty good and was completely wet. I hopped up on him and rode around the ranch's 10 acres to cool him out. His walk was amazing. He tensed up at a few things that he hadn't seen before, but the walk he showed me was definitely show worthy - long strided and very forward thinking.
I am so happy to have a three-day weekend. I am going to lunge each day before I ride. My hope is that he can work out his balance issues on the line without me up there throwing him off. I am also going to get braver and let him move out bigger once I am in the saddle.
I'll let you know how it goes. Have a great weekend!