Interesting...I had a dressage lesson with Kelly Eaton today, who I've always liked. It was good. Really good. But it was a very different approach from my lesson with Julie. I think I can use both to my advantage.
Today Kelly had me focus on riding Fleck much deeper. Not long and low, because she wanted more connection, but deep. Not rolkur, not that deep! Not at all. Just deep enough that he uses his belly. Kelly noted that Fleck kind of cheats. He gets in a nice "frame" but doesn't actually come through with the connection. He's not tracking up behind with that hind end. She also noticed that he doesn't step under himself with his right hind.
So.... she had us start at the walk. She wanted me to get him deep. And she explained that this was for my warm up. We don't want him sucked back, but round and with his ears pointing the way, rather than pointing up a little (ie.. his poll will be lower, not the highest point) for now, but not forever. We will get him there to get him to use his belly and back and then after he warms up and is using himself, we will allow him to go back "up" to the proper frame, but by then he'll be using himself. Aha! So to do that I keep my elbows at my side, keep a firm/heavy connection (one that almost allows him to hang on the bit), and push him into it with my legs and seat. And Kelly liked him more forward. He was more through when he was a bit more forward. Not running!! But forward. And I need more bend.
I think I've gotten to where I'm riding the horse I had back then, not the horse I have now. I'm anticipating him bulging out with that shoulder and trying to keep him more upright, so I'm not allowing him to bend and almost forcing him to have a slight counter bend. Sigh... So yep, I had to really allow the bend. And it's not really an exaggeration at all. But because I've been so freaky about it, *I* feel like it's an overbend. Sigh. Kelly told me to watch his neck. The under muscles should disappear and the muscles at the top of his neck (more dorsal) need to be bulging. And, I can look at the base of his neck, at the withers, and watch for the jiggle. It was a good visual for me. Kelly wants me to do lots of that deep work, with lots of changing directions to help get him supple.
So then we moved on to the trot. More forward!!! And keep it forward. Same exact principles. Fleck needed to stay deep and I really needed to almost get an overbend. When tracking to the right, I needed to soften with my outside rein and remember to keep the connection on the right rein. Only twice in the entire lesson did Fleck bulge out with that left shoulder. And I could actually feel it. So, I need to stop guarding him from doing it and actually waiting until he does it. MORE BEND!! And keep it forward. Kelly said to give him a good 15 minutes or so of this deep trot and direction changes to get him supple and soft and using his back. And he even started stepping under with his right hind.
So then we worked on the canter. It was the exact same ride as the trot. Egads!! Fleck was pretty good going to the left. In fact, it was quite nice. But going right was so hard!!! I tried to sit on my right seat bone and lengthen my right leg. And it finally took me having to let go practically with the left rein to allow the bend. I really had to almost ask for an overbend to the inside. And at first, it took right bend, left bend, right bend, left bend. And deep. So we finally got it.
And side note. To ask for the canter from the walk I need to ask when his inside shoulder comes forward. And I need to think of sending my hips in front of my elbows. Almost feel like I'm getting left behind at a jump.
So then we worked on allowing him to come back up and slowing down the tempo a hair to get the ideal connection. Now I was allowed to wiggle my fingers a bit to get him to soften and use my halfhalts. And we got some nice work. Definitely nice trot work, but some good sitting canters. Yay!
So then we finished with our trot to walk transitions. I did lots of trot, think walk, then trot on to keep the front feet moving. After doing that a few times, our downwards where we stayed at the walk were good and through.
So yep.... lots of good work, but it was exhausting. :) I think that if I can get Fleck using his back and through by doing this, and then allow him to come up and go in a less deep but still through frame, then he will be going very nicely. And in the meantime, I can still incorporate all of Julie's suggestions into my rides too. :)