We met up outside her barn to discuss where I was with Sydney. I love that JL listens to my concerns rather than just moving on with her plan for the day. I explained the work I had been doing with Lois (rhythm, geometry, super light contact). JL agreed that those were all things that needed improvement.
Then I told her about our continued trouble with the right lead canter. A few months ago, Sydney was quite unbalanced to the right; it felt as though his entire barrel rolled inward. He now stands up, but it feels as though he is shoving his barrel into my right (inside leg). I explained how when I ask for the right lead canter, he shoves his inside shoulder forward and spins inward at the canter. My solution has been to use the inside rein to lift his inside shoulder and push him back out with my inside leg.
This has been a trouble spot for us for quite some time. I don't know if I finally described the issue well enough, but JL finally understood the problem I was having and then had a great solution.
She explained it like this: Lois's work with me is more about refinement. A horse who is listening doesn't need, and won't tolerate, pulling. A horse who is listening to your aids can move off a subtle shift in your weight. JL loves that I am working with Lois so that the dressage part of my riding can improve. The work she does with me is sometimes more crude (her words) and is necessary because my horse is not listening to my aids. In fact, he's running right through them and can't even hear me.
For the right lead canter, she figured out that he isn't shoving his shoulder forward, but rather, it is his hind end that he is shoving out. He's kinked! When I ask for the canter, he can't/won't go forward because his hind end isn't underneath him. Instead, he whirls into the circle because that is the way he is pointed.
To correct his wayward butt (double meaning here), she had me shorten my reins big time and lighten my seat. I was not to pay any attention to roundness or reaching or suppleness. This exercise was all about getting that butt back where it should be. I rode him in an oval so that I had a straight runway. She had me keep his head pointed straight forward and trot. As I made the turn to the straight side of the oval, I moved my outside leg back and asked for the canter. When he bolted and whirled in, or tried to, I nailed him with the outside rein and leg. He didn't fall in!
You should have seen the look on his face. WTF? was stamped all over his big brown forehead! We repeated the exercise over and over. I never got a lovely relaxed departure, but I finally felt that I had control over the problem. JL said this was a crude exercise because there was no refinement or niceness about it. Sydney has learned to "get away" from my aids on the outside. This exercise was simply to show him that nope, that door has closed, and the boat has sailed.
I don't expect him to pick up a lovely canter tonight when I ride, but now that I have an exercise to address the problem, it shouldn't take long before he realizes that his life will be much more comfortable by respecting my outside aids which can can then get more and more subtle, which will lead to refinement.
It was a great AHA! lesson. I am already anticipating the next one!