At our previous lesson, we focused on walk to canter transitions with the focus being on having Speedy G lift his front end and push off from his hind. I practiced all week. I showed JL two transitions, and she was quite pleased. He definitely understands the lifting part, now we need to get him doing the moving forward part. He lifts, but he needs more encouragement to actually get his hind legs moving. That will come.
For this lesson, JL had me work first on getting Speedy's neck to soften to the inside, but something wasn't going right. She wanted him to soften, but I kept saying that he WAS soft. To test him, she had me halt him as quickly as possible with the inside rein to see if he was hanging on it or not. He came skidding to a halt with very little rein pressure. To be honest, JL was a little surprised.
After watching such a responsive halt, she agreed that he was working from his hind end and needed to move on to something more. A big woo hoo for Speedy and me (that went in THE JAR by the way).
So instead of more walk to canter transitions, we worked on canter lengthenings. Oh yeah ... this dressage thing is getting fun! First, walk to canter transitions and now canter lengthenings? I am all in! Don't get all excited however, our lengethenings are not very long, but I don't care. It was fun!
We didn't do the lengthenings just to lengthen, of course. The real purpose was to shorten, or begin to collect. That's where our weakness showed through. The exercise went something like this: walk to canter transition, but go somewhere NOW! Remember that he has the UP, but not so much the forward? Here's where we worked on that. Once he was "taking me somewhere," and you should read that not as running off, but really being solidly on the bit and in front of my leg, I shortened his stride. At first, we dropped back into trot over and over. Finally, I heard JL tell me, shorten his stride only as much as he can.
Doh! I finally realized that I was being greedy in that I was trying to shorten him too much. Once I figured out that he could only shorten a fraction, I was able to help him maintain the canter, but it took a lot of leg. I kept searching for the most collected canter that he could do, but as soon as he tried to drop the connection, I sent him forward again so that he could lengthen, hence the need for a lot of leg.
We worked the circle for quite some time: lengthening and shortening, lengthening and shortening. Each time that we stopped for a break, I was gasping for breath. That is a HARD exercise to do. Even Speedy, my super fit pony, had an elevated heart rate.
I am so pleased with how hard Speedy is trying. JL commented at the end of the lesson that he was so focused the whole time that he didn't even seem aware of his surroundings; he was that with me. As I compare the test directives for both Training Level and First Level, I know that we are not that far away from moving up!