I had a lesson with John this morning - I was so glad that he was coming today, as I really felt that I needed some help. Everybody has been great and given me lots of advice, but until someone actually stands there and watches the problems you're having, it's hard to explain what's wrong. I got on and explained the problems.
She was very excitable this morning - she was shying and wouldn't settle or listen to me. It was very cold, so I started doing some halt/walk transitions to get her thinking. He watched me do a few of these, then our conversation went a bit like this:
John: Was that a good transition?
Me: No, not really.
John: So what are you going to do about it?
Me: Er...do another one?
John: And how are you going to make sure that it's better than the last one?
Me: Er...(or something equally inarticulate...)
John: You are going to ask for the halt and expect to get it. If you don't, then tell her off. If you don't tell her that that's wrong, she will assume it's right.
This was pretty much how my lesson went. Me riding like an absolute muppet, being ineffective, and John telling me that I'm confusing her. The definitive moment came when he said 'What colour is she?' (Now there's a question I did know the answer to!) Black and White. He said that she needs things to be completely black and white. According to John (although I'm sure this just came to him on the spot!) she isn't grey and 'in-between' - she needs things to be clear cut and explained plainly to her.
He got me to do some walk-trot-walk transitions, and noticed that she is falling onto her inside shoulder in all transitions. He got me to bend her in an exaggerated way to the left and then ask for the downward transition, really keeping her moving into my outside hand. This really worked, particularly after he got me to trot her on a really small circle around him, then spiral out and then ask for the downward transition as she was moving out. She finally felt really connected.
I explained that I was having issues trotting after we had cantered, and rather than ignore the canter for a bit, as I had thought I should do, he got me to try walk to canter. He wanted to see what she would do and it was quite interesting. She did manage to canter from the walk, but it was on the wrong lead on each rein. She was finding it really difficult, so we then went into trot and asked for the canter in the corner. This was great, although he did see my problem with her rushing and 'falling' into canter. To get around that, he asked me to ride deep into the corner. He said that I am trying to make it easy for her by cutting the corner, but am only making it more difficult for myself. If I ask for the transition in the corner, she can't rush forwards. He also said that I should not think of the canter as going 'forwards' faster, but going 'up' and staying at the same speed as the trot. This was really interesting and it really worked. She cantered immediately and on the correct leg every time. We did this on both reins and she was really good.
As we finished the session I was concerned about the fact that she seems to get really strong in the trot when we are working on the canter transitions. In fact, I should have thought before telling him this. Our conversation was rather similar to the one we had earlier:
Me: She keeps rushing in the trot before we canter and she gets really strong.
John: So don't let her. She will be strong until you tell her that that isn't what you want. When she does what you want, then you make a big fuss of her and tell her that it's right.
Me: Oh. That seems obvious now.
He said that she is testing me and that all young horses do this at some point. Unless I explain clearly the boundaries now, then things will be more difficult in future. He said that I've got to make things easier for myself and expect her to get things right. We aren't asking her to do anything difficult, just to carry herself correctly. She seems to be exploring the other options at the moment. As usual, I have come away from it with a great deal to think about.
I think we need to do some hacking this weekend, as we have been working hard in the school. I will try to consolidate today's lesson tomorrow, but then I think we need a chance to chill out and think.