Echo has been going really well this week. I have only been riding her for about half an hour each time I’ve ridden, but this is plenty, as she is still a bit lacking in strength through being young and having had a holiday. I have been feeling very emotional towards the end of the week (it’s up and down!) and felt that I needed something specific to work on with Echo, to keep me focussed and sane. My theme for this week has been working on getting her to work into the outside contact. I felt that I was using too much inside rein and decided to do something about it!
Working in walk a lot to begin with, I started by asking her to flex her neck dramatically to the inside, while still walking in a straight line. Once she worked out what to do, she immediately felt more flexible through her body. I then started to ask for leg yielding from the three-quarter line to the track. She knows what to do with this, but is sometimes keen to not take the outside contact. I find myself over-using the inside rein, which is not good.
I then started to ask her to leg yield along the track. When I came round the corner before the long side, I asked her to bring her hind-quarters in and leg-yield along the track. She finds this difficult, but I find it a more successful way of getting her to work into the outside rein (albeit the ‘wrong’ outside rein each time!) I then started to ask for these movements in trot, which she finds easier in some ways, but does then have a tendency to rush. I worked hard at using half-halts in the leg-yielding to control the pace, which in turn got her to work more into the outside rein.
We are making small steps with this, but I feel that she is starting to understand what I am asking her to do. The other interesting thing with all of this is that on Sunday I managed to get a walk to canter transition for the first time – and on the left rein, which is notoriously our worst for striking off on the correct leg. I was really pushing her into the corner in walk, asking her to really reach in to the outside rein and step under with her inside hind, and on a whim, I decided to ask for the canter transition, as she felt very connected. She just sort of popped up through the transition and the actual canter then felt amazing and balanced. What a result! John tried to get us to do walk to canter in our last lesson and we didn’t manage it, so I am really seeing progress now.
It isn’t that I want her to be able to do this all the time, but it is a great way of balancing the transitions and stopping her falling onto her forehand when going into canter. The other thing I felt able to do on Sunday was actually ask a bit more of her in the canter. I was able to sit up and really ride, using my inside leg to engage her. This is a good step forward, as previously I have been satisfied with just getting into canter in the first place. I now need to work on the downward transitions. She still really falls into trot and then runs along on her forehand, so I have decided not to trot after cantering at the moment. I bring her back to a walk straight from canter, which I am hoping will instil a desire to balance herself after the downward transition. I am not sure on this point though, so any ideas would be appreciated!