There are many advantages when using a hunter/jumper trainer instead of an actual dressage trainer. As a h/j, JL doesn't have anything invested in the dressage world. She doesn't know the judges, the tests, or any of the riders. She hasn't read the dressage books by the Right People and she isn't trying to expand her clientele. This means that she's just teaching the fundamentals that all horses should know and isn't influenced by the method du jour.
So what were the two choices? Well, the first was to push Speedy up to the bit and HOLD HIM UP. Doing this would require me to push, push, push and hold, hold, hold. Um ... no. That doesn't sound like very much fun. The second option was to slow down the front end so that his hind legs and front legs were moving together. Hmm ... that sounds good. Let's try that one! JL agreed.
JL asked us to trot out and then using my core and seat, I was to ask him to slow way down so that he was almost trotting in place. I simply tightened my core but kept my leg on so that he didn't fall into a walk. He responded immediately by shortening his stride while keeping the rhythm of the trot. Once I could feel that he was balanced and rhythmical, I softened everything and moved my hands forward slightly. Speedy responded by lengthening his stride just a little bit. The good thing was that he was now even in the front and back. Almost immediately I tightened my core and brought him back to a "trot in place" idea. We kept that position for a few strides and I again relaxed and let him lengthen.
I could tell immediately that Speedy G enjoyed the exercise. He was loose in his neck and very responsive. The result of the "trot in place" was that he came back onto his hind end just a little bit which freed up his shoulders. We started making the turns much more easily and he got softer and softer. This may seem like a step backward, but slowing down his trot by slowing the front end will help us in the long run. When we get this mastered, a true lengthening will be easy as pie!