When I drove down on Tuesday for a lesson with Chemaine Hurtado, trainer and owner of Symphony Dressage Stables, I wanted to work on two things:
1) Find a specific exercise to help Izzy relax when he's all bunched up in a tense ball, and ...
2) Continue working on filling up the outside rein (particularly when he's tense).
Now, don't get me wrong. We weren't really piaffing, but she had me think about how to get a piaffe: trot, but don't go forward. Since Izzy already wasn't going forward, this wasn't difficult for him. I asked him to lift his back and soften without going anywhere. As soon as he softened to the rein, I "let" him go forward. At first, it was more of a passage (in feeling if not in reality) than a trot, but he was at least able to start moving forward.
Ignore my chatter, I was asking about rein length, but this clip shows me firming up the outside rein until he gives to it. (Someday I'll be able to share a video where I look like I know what I am doing.)
2) Approaching X, slow down and make a 10-meter circle tracking left. This circle should encourage inside bend, the inside hind should step under, and the horse should recognize this circle as a place to rebalance and rest.
3) Expand out of the circle at X and make another 20-meter circle, still tracking left. If the horse is till tense, keep this circle slow. As he relaxes, you can lengthen the stride as you move into the bigger circle.
4) As you approach X, slow down, change the bend and track right into a 10-meter circle. Again, the horse should have a good bend and the inside hind should step steeply.
5) Expand out of the circle at X and make another 20-meter circle, still tracking right. If the horse is till tense, keep this circle slow. As he relaxes, you can lengthen the stride as you move into the bigger circle.
6) Repeat. Do a 10-meter circle, expand to the 20-meter circle, slow down, change the bend, do the the other 10-meter circle, expand to the 20-meter circle, and so on.
Obviously, we're not as far along in our training as we would be if I sent Izzy to Chemaine full time. Plenty of other, better riders would have had him cantering along just fine by now. Doing so wouldn't teach me anything though. We might be moving along slowly, but I am getting a decent education out of the process.
We have a schooling show on Sunday, still just Introductory A and B (you have to have a canter departure for Intro Test C). My one and only goal is to help him keep his cookies in the cookie jar. With Chemaine coaching me through the warm up, I think we can help him have a pretty positive day.