I've been with my trainer for five years. There are times in her lessons when it feels like she only figures out what she wants us to work on after seeing us warm up. There are times when it feels like she comes in with a plan, and then changes the whole thing after seeing us warm up.
And then there are times like Thursday, when she comes in with a plan and by gosh, we do it.
She basically said, paraphased, that in both directions he is constantly drifting right through my right leg, that it is affecting all aspects of our work, and we have to address it now in order to make progress. I know this is true. To the left he has a hard time bending, and likes to pop the right shoulder out. I typically address this with a few strides of counterbend, but still struggle to get left bend after that, and if I am paying attention, I can feel him constantly drifting right. To the right, his right fore often moves sideways to the inside, especially around turns, which of course means we lose the bend.
|What's this? The rare February ride in the freshly dragged outdoor? Sunshine?! Also note that his attention is still on the Hose of Doom after we've ridden by it 20 times already.|
She had me start out on a square, at the walk, left rein, counterbent, and asked me to make the turns by moving his croup in the direction of the bend (to the right). She specifically wanted me to initiate the turn from the left hind.
I'm not going to lie, I struggled HARD with this exercise. I got it after a while at the walk, but only after she asked me to get after him in a way that gave me permission to take a stronger rein contact temporarily (and then release of course). He was walking through my usual contact, and bending in the wrong direction to get out of what we were doing, and it took aggressive and quick-reacting riding on my part to finally get it right.
Once we had it at the walk, we did it at the trot, and I cannot tell you how physically challenging it was on my part (and probably Connor's too) to get it. He'd lose the bend, he'd send his shoulders around the turn instead of his croup, he'd rush, he'd pop his right shoulder. As JLC said, when you fundamentally change your horse's way of going, he's going to do everything he can to protect himself and his current way of moving.
But finally, when I thought I physically could not do anymore, we did start to get it. And when we moved on to sort of somewhat doing it at the canter (asking for a couple of strides of counterbend in the corners, normal bend elsewhere), I noticed a huge change in the way he went. He was actually bending to the left, and staying together really nicely - in his weakest gait, no less.
|Not as pretty in winter, but still loads better scenery out here than in the indoor!|
I started my ride today with acute awareness of his right drift, and spent my warmup noticing, correcting, noticing, correcting, and then did just a couple of minutes of the aforementioned exercise to get us both thinking about keeping that pesky shoulder in line. Then we ran through 1-1, and it was SO good, and I know it was a direct result of him actually traveling straight for once. If he does that a week from tomorrow, I'll be really happy!