I had a fabulous lesson with Liz this morning. I have ALWAYS had such problems with Varro's transitions; both up AND down! His up transitions are sticky and "bracey" He throws his head up and drops his back so low I feel like my feet should be dragging on the ground. He drops his right shoulder and braces hard against me! UGH! So hard to ride. His down transitions are INSTANT to the point where if I am not watching it, he will toss me right over his head. This first thing we did was for me to stop riding the transition. Just ask for a bigger and bigger gait until he just broke into the next gait. He would still pop his head up and hollow his back, even on a loose rein so, it wasn't ALL me. A good portion of it was... Relax and just ask for bigger, and bigger until he breaks into the next gait!
The first light bulb that went on was: FOLLOW. When Varro pops his head up, I need to keep my hands above the bit!. I had instinctively dropped my hands hoping to encourage him to stretch down into the contact... NO! As his head pops up, raise my hands. My shoulders and elbows stay down, just lift my hands until they are slightly higher than the bit. Don't fight; just follow! After 3 or 4 laps around the arena, he finally got it! (and so did I)
The second light bulb was working on a canter transition on the lunge line. We had worked on riding the transition to the left but he was just jarring my back! Liz asked me to get off and lunge him through the transitions to the right. She explained how the lunge line was acting like my inside rein and my crop was my leg. She showed me how his body was balanced (or not balanced haha) and when to ask for a bigger trot until he cantered. That was the biggest AH-HA moment of the lesson. He is kind of slow to react to my "cue" and by the time he does, he is off balance and that is causing most of the stickiness in his transition. We need to work on that...
The final light bulb came on when we were winding up the lesson, working on the walk-straight halt (beginning and end of each test) I was using too much rein to stop him. I need to just keep the bit straight (not his head) and halt with my seat. He was arguing with me through the rein. I found out that all I had to do was keep the bit straight and his head would follow it! I would just wiggle a little bit with the inside rein and ask for the halt with my seat. Varro likes to drop his right shoulder which swings his hind quarters to the left on the halt so I would lay my left leg SLIGHTLY on his side a little behind the girth to ask him to stay straight and BINGO we had a straight halt! In fact we had quite a few of them! I AM SO PLEASED! I have a lot of homework this week.