Today was a fun day. I was able to hack Fleck out for two laps and then we headed into the ring. He was actually pretty springy at the start but he felt a little funky. I couldn't figure out what exactly was happening. I still don't know. I think it might have actually been that he felt good and I was trying to get his rib cage and it was actually working. :) He was fishtailing some though in an effort to avoid work.
Anyways... Cindy started us off by having us focus on his lower neck muscles. She said that he's getting thicker at the cranial part of his neck but it needs to extend all the way down his neck... and ultimately all the way down to his tail. If I just ask for bend and let him/ask him to bend his neck and not his body, then we just keep building part of his neck. If I actually get bend from the rib cage, and get his nuchal ligament popping UP and see that his neck is really straight, then we'll build the lower neck muscle. It was a helpful visual. I KNOW all of this.. but can't seem to put it into action without clear reminders and good visual aids. Doh! But it was helpful to look for the base of his neck. It was a LOT of outside rein, specifically the left rein. My left shoulder was killing me because we were hanging on each other. But if I don't, then he pops that left shoulder out and falls in on his right shoulder. So I had to keep him upright on all fours and then straight and even with an upward popping nuchal ligament. No biggie. ;) But we actually managed to do it. Fleck fought it some and we weren't pretty all the times, but we did get some really nice work. :) :) Yay!
We went to the canter pretty quickly and Cindy had a really cool exercise for me. We started with a four loop serpentine and she noticed that in the counter canter, Fleck was rolling his spine to the inside of the arena, throwing me to the inside and letting him fall onto the inside. She mentioned that and my answer was to close my outside leg. So... say we're tracking right and on the right lead. As we start the counter canter part, Fleck would roll his spinous processes to the left/rail. Thus tipping me to the outside and making it likely for him to break. (I think.... oh gosh... now I'm confusing myself!). My attempts at closing my outside leg to push him back to the inside weren't really helping because then I'm just tipping him again. So she wanted me to think more of keeping his spine upright instead. In an effort to get me to do that, she had me pick up the canter (we'll say right again, though it was MUCH easier on the left) and start the four loop serpentine. As we went to do the second loop, which was the counter canter loop, we only went to the quarter line and did the start of the counter canter, then from the quarter line we half passed back to the rail (which really made me aware of the left hind and his haunches) to the spot for the 3rd loop and then we finished another counter canter loop to go back to true canter at A/C. It was tricky and it took me a few tries to even get the geometry right! Doh. I was so confused. But once we got the geometry right, it was hard! It was so neat though to go from counter canter to half pass and really feel him upright underneath me, as opposed to flinging me side to side. And it really helped me grasp how to keep him underneath me.
I still need to practice more as I think some of it was just sheer luck. And the fact that we kept careening into other people somehow so I had to make it happen or collide. ;)
But it was a super neat exercise and we got a lot of good work accomplished. Fleck was funny because every time we did our canter departs he started to get all pissy because I was making him keep those shoulders in line and not fling them out. He's such a sassy butt sometimes. :) I love it!