11.12.11: Go Left and Keep Turning Right

The day started out COLD. The low the night before was 26, and I didn't even bother to check before I got ready and headed out of the house. Fifteen layers of clothes later I was bundled up and headed out of the house. I headed out to get Storm and took the lazy/quick route and just made sure that it was clean where the saddle sits and didn't fuss with the rest. It just wasn't worth the struggle. Even just trying to get the saddle area cleaned I got pretty warm, which isn't good either, but I figured I'd cool down quick once I stopped moving around so frantically.
We headed to the arena, and Kirsten suggested that we get started with the long lines to really check in. She noted that he looked stiff coming down the hill and wanted to give him a chance to really warm up. We started to the left, and I found that he was not too unsteady and as we worked he warmed up and began to move more fluidly and without tugging so hard on me. His steps smoothed out and the fussiness in his mouth and head slowly disappeared. We changed and headed to the right, and started the work all over again. He was a lot more unstable going to the right, much heavier on the reins and wobbled a lot more which made it a big challenge to keep the reins steady and help him stay balanced. His mouth was working a lot harder as he struggled to really load the inside right hind leg. Lap after lap we circled and ever so slowly and ever so slowly the movement became steadier, smoother, and quieter. He began to find his right hind, and the movement became more even compared to his left hind. His mouth became quieter, and wasn't working so hard, and he was able to stay more straight rather than being counter bent on the circle. I noticed that his shoulder was spasming, as well as a small area in front of his flank that Kirsten had pointed out needs to fill out with a little more muscle. We worked for several more laps allowing him some time to gain some consistency and stability before I stopped to get ready to ride. Kirsten was sitting near my reins and she pointed out that there was still quite a bit of tilt in his pelvis which was creating a lot of extra movement, and so she suggested that I work on the long lines for a few laps behind him so I can really watch what happens to the tilt of his pelvis in conjunction with what is going on in the reins. I set off to the right to begin with, and it appeared that he was higher on the left looking at him from behind, there just wasn't as much movement on the right side. After a lap I changed direction, and moving to the left it was much more subtle, but still seemed to be the same issue. I decided to cross check myself, and switched back to the right one more time, and watched carefully but realized that it seemed like he was steadier. As we came around the circle again he began to blow and snort, and snorted several times as we worked around. I left him on the circle for another lap to make sure that whatever issue he was working on he really had a chance to let it sink in. When I came around and stopped next to Kirsten again, I told her the things I noticed, and she confirmed what I was seeing.
I got set up to ride and I climbed onto the fence, and asked him forward, and he stepped right to me, which was a really good feeling. I climbed up and adjusted my multitude of layers until I was comfortable and we moved off. Kirsten helped me to identify the pattern that I was seeing from the ground. We started off to the left, and he was high on the right side, which is the outside of the circle. At first glance it seems that he is balanced, because he is staying to the outside of the circle, but reality is that he isn't straight on the circle, he is bent into the circle, which isn't straight! It took me a very long time to get a change with this pattern as it was very unfamiliar. Kirsten helped me to continually keep trying more until I found the tipping point that made a change. The imbalance did not feel large, but I finally found that I did need to move my seat to the outside to begin to affect a change. Once there, I had to keep asking with my leg, and keep reminding with my whip while lightly tipping his nose to the outside. When it clicked, the result was instantaneous, and I could feel him come up from behind. And we were immediately back again to square one - shift weight, add leg, remind with whip, tip nose, straightness! Lather, rinse, repeat. It is an awkward feeling because the horse is staying out on the circle, and at the same time, you have to use the outside rein, and use outside aids to ask the ball to shift back to the inside. Turn right without turning right to find straightness.
We worked for a while until I was able to get the change and keep it for more and more steps. That is really the only trick - never let the change happen in the first place. It is hard when there are a million different things to keep up with all at once. We changed directions and headed to the right for a while, and amusingly we were no longer rubbing the fence all the way around our circle. Now I had to work from the inside out again, which is a pattern that I am familiar with. It took time to really solidify the corrections and repeat the pattern quickly and efficiently so that he was able to stay in balance longer each time.
Kirsten suggested that we could mix it up with some trot work, and as I began to prepare, Kirsten commented that she figured out exactly what it was that she identified when she checks to be sure she knows which diagonal she's posting on - the point of the shoulder. She gave me her point of reference to be able to check and see which diagonal I was on so that I could know and be able to use it to my advantage. I began to work with him a little bit, and was still having trouble finding the inside hind even though I had a clearer point of reference. She asked if I was watching it and preparing, and I told her that indeed I was, and so she said, well, try watching the opposite. So instead of watching the outside shoulder waiting for the rise, I checked the inside shoulder waiting for the flat spot. I hit it twice right off without any trouble. At that point we were out of time for our lesson, and so I was content to stop on that note. It was a pretty big success, and I am pleased that it clicked, so now I just hope that it sticks!