so first, I think this blog is a GREAT idea, and thanks for starting it! It is really neat to take an idea from someone else and maybe tweak it and apply it to your own training and have some surprising results, like my ride today!
To preface, I have been working with a young morgan mare for the past year. She is hot, sensitive, inquisitive, lovely, a character, and always challenges me to be a better rider (also I adore her ;-). This mare's first challenge is being steady in the bridle, or in the bridle at all. You have to be very quiet and steady with your hands or she snatches the bit and up goes her head. After some bit changes, and a healthy dose of of "I'll let go when you let go" we have really made progress over the past month or so and she is moving forward into the contact better than ever. At the beginning of each ride, however, she starts out quite tense, and if you start right in with ANY contact and asking her to step up, she totally backs off and will kick out if pushed with your leg. For the past 2 months I have started each ride with several laps of a forward free walk, asking her to stretch (and for the first time she really follows the bit down and out. yay!) We then do several laps each way, again, stretching forward and down and working on being forward but with relaxation. Her trot has improved enormously! Then comes the first big challenge: getting into the canter. She used to stiffen up as soon as I'd put the inside leg on, throw her head up, and even kick out if I was more insistent. I have been trying to ask her to quietly go into the canter on a long stretching rain as well and have had some success but not 100%. Her tendency has still been to push into that inside leg (especially the right) rather than give to it and move forward. I have figured out that if I make my first few transitions at the end of a leg-yeild off the inside leg, and asking for just a touch of inside flection, I get a much better reaction. After we canter a few times each way she gets out a LOT of blows and relaxes much more.
This brings me to todays breakthrough. Now that I have her in the bridle and working relaxed and forward, she STILL loves to just lean on my inside leg (still worse to the right). We have been working a lot of shoulder in and she is comfortable with that in both directions, but when I ask for haunches in, especially of that right leg, I get either protest or no reaction. So I took my lead from one of Jamie's blog the other day about Wheels, working from leg yield to travers. At the walk, I would take her down the long side and ask first for a slight shoulder in, back to straight, and then slowly move her back the other way into a leg yield. When I would put my leg on, if I did not get a response, she got just a tickle with the whip, and then a big pat as soon as she would give to the pressure. She caught on quickly and I was able to take her 1 meter inside the track and continue in both directions, making sure to keep her in a straight line, not sucking back to the wall. She all of a sudden was MUCH more supple through her jaw, neck and rib cage, and I was able to keep asking her to shift her haunches back and forth down the long side in both directions. We were even able to do a little bit in trot! It was the first time I was really able to move her around off my leg without her protesting by grabbing the bit and stiffening against me. We finished with some lovely trot lengthening across the diagonal (her new favorite thing) just to make her feel special. Always a great feeling to have a ride like that :)