I ended up having a lesson today, which was really useful! I am rather short of funds at the moment, but a friend offered to lend me the money, and since my instructor was around, I decided to go for it. It was such a good thing to do!
Last time I had a lesson I had a real breakthrough with my hands in the walk. Today, we had another revelation. I love lessons like that, where you suddenly think 'Of course! That's what I wasn't doing!' The breakthrough today was with the leg yielding, as this is what we have been practising since our last lesson. When John arrived I said that I thought she had been going better on the right rein recently, and that the better rein keeps switching. After watching us for a few minutes, he begged to differ. He asked me why I thought she didn't feel as good on the left and I explained that it was because she was heavier in my left hand. He then pointed out that with a young horse, you want the horse to go forward into the contact. The fact that she is heavier in my left hand means that she is not taking the contact forward enough to the right and not moving off my right leg properly. This all makes lots of sense, but I hadn't really thought about it like that.
When we started leg-yielding he explained that I was shifting my weight to the wrong side. When I wanted to leg yield to the right I was putting my weight to the right. I think I thought I was helping to show her which direction to go in. Evidently I was doing the opposite and preventing her from moving across. I really don't know why I thought this was the right thing to do - when she falls in on her right shoulder, I put my weight to the right and that pushes her weight across to the left. I KNOW this, so I have no idea why I thought that putting my weight to the right would make her go right in the leg-yielding - it doesn't make sense!
John also explained that while it helps mentally to leg-yield in walk for a bit first, as soon as the horse has some idea of going sideways, it is far better to ask for the exercise in trot. Apparently the moment of suspension in trot gives the horse time to physically move its legs across, whereas they can become tangled in walk. I was a little sceptical of this to begin with, as when I have tried it in trot, she just rushes. He watched me have a go once, then the next time I turned up the three-quarter line, he told me to make a transition to walk, while still asking for the sideways movement. Suddenly, she moved properly sideways. She was fairly strong in my hand, but we actually moved to the right correctly. It seems that when he just said to 'slow down' I wasn't able to control the forward movement from my leg. If I actually asked for the transition while applying the leg, it made it very clear to her that my leg meant sideways, not forwards.
We did this a few times on each rein, really working on using my inside leg on the turn to get the sideways movement started. As well as producing some excellent leg-yielding, the contact she was giving me was fantastic. She was really stretching into the bridle on both sides and I felt like she was really swinging. It just proves to me how valuable lessons are - even when we are only covering the basics. I feel like we are making such great progress and I love the fact that each lesson is a little revelation in itself. I go away thinking very hard, as you can probably tell from my babble here!