During my last lesson with Chemaine in the middle of January, we worked on getting some inside bend by spiraling in and then leg yielding out. During all of this spiraling and leg yielding, the most important thing was to KEEP THE BEND.
It was such an important idea, that I found myself singing, "It's all about the bend, 'bout that bend, no trouble." And really, it helped. A lot. The more inside bend I was able to achieve, the less trouble Izzy was able to get into.
I've started the exercise at the walk each day that I've done it. Once he maintains that inside bend with no help from me, I repeat it at the trot. The first few days I tackled the exercise, there was trouble. Lots of trouble. I don't know if he finally realized it was not hard or maybe his ribs and neck started to stretch, but after a few days, tracking left got so easy that I didn't really have to do it at the walk to prepare him.
Working to the right took longer. I had to start with his haunches. I found that if I just got a good inside bend, his haunches swung out which let him basically pivot around my inside leg like a merry-go-round horse. That didn't seem right. Once I got his haunches in, I worked the inside rein. It is now almost as soft as when we track left.
Chemaine said something that really stuck with me, "Only canter when you have that good boy." She meant when Izzy was bending and being soft on the inside rein. When I ask for the canter now, especially with the right lead, I make sure my inside hip is forward and my outside leg is back. And then I just wait. If he tries to lunge into the canter, I half halt and keep him at the trot.
Here is where my ability to articulate clearly is going to vanish.
In my mind, I keep telling myself to just wait for it. All I need to do is give him a space in which to canter. I can feel that the space is where he's soft to the inside rein. He can canter within that area that I've outlined. When I wait for it, he lifts into the canter rather than lunging forward. As soon as he gets the lift, the canter is absolutely amazing from the very first stride.
On Saturday, I was laughing out loud while my heart sang. He was so light in the canter that I was able to ride with my finger tips. We rode a giant square into a 15-meter circle and back to the square. We cantered the long side, spiraled in, and then want back to straight lines. It was utterly fantastic.
Cue ominous music here: cantering to the right isn't there yet. I need some help from Chemaine with that, but even there he is showing progress. Instead of throwing gigantic fits and trying to bolt for the gait, he just shortens his stride and kicks at my inside leg. His counter canter is fantastic; I just can't get and keep a right lead. If he picks it up, he almost immediately swaps to a left lead.
Following Chemaine's suggestion, I just keep on cantering and asking for an inside bend even if it is on the wrong lead. And to make the work even harder, I've been asking him to spiral in on the counter canter lead. Believe it or not, he can pretty much do a 10-meter counter canter circle. I'm hoping he starts to realize that being on a true canter would be a lot more comfortable.