So, per my whining about needing lessons, I was able to get one in this weekend with Eliza. It was really good to check in and to verify that I have not been busy messing up my horse that last several months. Always nice to hear.
One of my concerns recently has been that Foster is not steady in the contact as much as I would like, and even having moments of dipping behind the vertical. So to begin with, we warmed up with a focus on him seeking the bit and pushing off with his hind end, rather than shuffling like he tends to do.
We also worked on the canter, which has always been Foster’s trickiest gait. Again, the focus was on encouraging an active hind end and getting the impulsion and ‘jump’ that his canter tends to lack. Some minor collection efforts were introduced to get him sitting on his butt. This proved to be the hardest exercise for the both of us, and I’ll definitely be practicing a lot!
Then we moved onto walk/trot transitions. As basic as it is, Foster still wants to use his forehand to transition, and that’s just not cool anymore. Thinking halt before moving up into the trot ideally will get him rocking his balance back and pushing off his hind leg instead of leaning into the transition.
Shoulder-ins made an appearance, and it was fun for me to see how they have improved over the last 6 months. While not yet perfect, the movement feels easier for him and more even in both directions. Our straightness has definitely improved, and I think all the lateral work we have done has helped strengthen his back left so that the work is easier for him to do.
Lastly, regarding both activating the hind end and thinking about extended trot/lengthenings, I got off and Eliza showed me how to do some in-hand work, but like the training of a horse for piaffe. Foster quickly picked up on the idea that he should lift his leg when touched with the whip, and ideally we will be able to introduce this concept at the walk as well. Eventually we will do this with his forelegs, a la the Spanish Walk, with the idea that he will get a feel for lifting his elbows and hopefully produce a better extended or lengthened trot. Super fun!
Overall, it was good to check in with all of the basics and get homework for the future. I’m glad to have these things to work on and feel some accountability for working on these goals and not leaving them on the back burner. It was also good to learn that when I feel him get heavy in my hands as I ask for more and more hind end work, I shouldn’t be afraid and for now, the extra contact is an acceptable way for him to go as he figures these things out for the first time. As Eliza put it (and this really resonated with me), Foster is very sensitive in the mouth, but a little stiff in the body. It’s always nice to hear someone put into words what you couldn’t say yourself!
Anyways, I am so happy to have gotten this lesson in, and encouraged to know that we are moving in the right direction. The rest of those many, many lessons that I want will only help!