It started with Chemaine's lesson last Friday: open the outside rein, squeeze and release the inside rein, and add inside leg all while remembering to keep weight on my inside leg. That is useful information and quite helpful, but once on my own, the outside rein remained a bit elusive.
I had a lesson with my regular trainer the day after the Tehachapi show. I shared with her what I had learned from Chemaine and Christian and she encouraged me to use everything that I'd learned. Then she also had me working with the outside rein. This time though, it was to teach Sydney to lift and turn from my outside aides.
We started at the walk to demonstrate that Sydney could do a turn on the haunches without just swiveling around my inside leg. When JL was satisfied that he was actually lifting his shoulders and bearing weight on the hind end, we tried the exercise at both the trot and canter.
I gave up worrying about correct contact, and instead, focused on lifting his shoulders up and over with my outside leg, only using the rein to reinforce the no faster idea. It was really interesting to see how quickly he picked up on the idea. The exercise goes like this: slightly counter bend the horse to the outside. Set the outside hind with the outside rein. Open the inside rein to say, "Here, come over here!" Add outside leg.
We rode a square, making the turn with just the outside leg and a little rein for support. It felt a lot like riding a cow pony; the second my outside leg went on, Sydney lifted and turned. At one point, his turns got so quick, I had to use some inside leg to keep the circle a little bigger.
After we had it at the trot, we did it again at the canter. As we picked up the canter, the idea was to get just one lifted stride. By this time, I didn't even need a counter bend. All it took was a small half halt with the outside rein and my outside leg and he lifted and turned, lifted and turned, lifted and turned. I can see why reiners have so much fun.
The lesson went great, but I was a little unsure how this exercise was going to help me in a dressage test. After riding on Thursday, I totally get how useful that exercise is. And even better, I can see how Chemaine's exercise works perfectly together with JL's.
While I was riding Sydney on Thursday morning, I was finally able to use Chemaine's exercise to get Sydney on the outside rein. Like most horses, Sydney is stiff to the left and hollow to the right. He already leans on the outside rein while tracking left, so I used JL's exercise to lighten him off it. OMG. Can you hear the angels in Heaven singing Hallelujah?
As we cantered at A, I used JL's exercise to really make the turn in the open end of the circle - right where he blew through it at last Sunday's show. As I was schooling, a car shot by and Sydney tried to bolt just like he had at the show, but I was ready for him! I used the outside rein and my outside leg and caught him just in time. Not only did he make the turn, but I was soft enough in my aides that he never lost the canter. Oh, man I can't wait until Sunday!
To the right, his limp way, I used more of Chemaine's strategy to get him on the outside rein. This is a bit tough for me as I can be too heavy with the inside rein. Instead, I opened the outside rein, pulsed the inside rein and then let it go, all the while focusing on keeping weight in that inside stirrup. It took us a few minutes, but eventually, I felt Sydney's weight shift to the outside and I worked him honestly from the inside leg to the outside rein.
Tracking right has been very difficult for us. Before yesterday, I haven't had a reliable way to get him on the outside rein so he frequently falls in. It took a lot of work to get a right lead canter because he would just pivot into the canter instead of staying out. I "fixed" that with a strong outside rein, but I was missing the weight on my inside stirrup. Now, I know how to move him over to the outside rein even at the canter.
I know we don't have all of our kinks worked out, but Thursday's ride gave me an enormous lightbulb moment. I finally felt how to help a horse get on the outside rein and keep him there. Good trainers are worth their weight in gold!