I had a lesson last Tuesday, and during the lesson, my instructor (Bernadette Radke) had me canter Ava down the quarter line. Guess what happened? Yeah... Ava can't hold the canter without the wall holding her up. Doh. I feel so dumb. Here I thought we were doing wonderfully, and BAM... this glaring hole has been revealed.
Thank my lucky stars I have such an amazingly, knowledgeable trainer.
The lesson started off with Bern pointing out that Ava has me completely suckered into not keeping contact with the bit. Then, after I gave her plenty of room to wiggly and contort, Ava drags her body around with her inside shoulder. Not a good thing.
We started off with just connecting her back end at the walk. Then moved on to the trot. Ava has been giving me fits about one end of the arena, and of course she had to throw that into high gear during our lesson. Bern had me settle in, bend her poll slightly to the inside, and ride as though I'm riding a shoulder-fore. Then I had to just sit there (which is hard for me since I LOVE to fiddle). So I sat, and the first time through the corner Ava gave me a bit of attitude, and I deepened my inside seat bone and re-asked for the slight bend. Second time through the corner, was better. And third time through, Ava didn't even care at that point.
The main point was that as long as I stayed consistent with the contact, and kept my hands in one place without moving (other than to follow), then Ava settled right down to business. It was more a matter of saying to Ava, "I am not going away, deal with it". It didn't take any force, no pulling or anything even remotely negative. Just simply stay with her, and don't move my hands all over the place. As soon as I did that, Ava became consistent.
Another thing that Bern brought to my attention was the stiffness in Ava's poll. She locks her poll to compensate for not having the strength to push with her inside hind. If she can brace on that inside shoulder and down through her neck, then she's able to power through corners. So my homework this week is to gently flex Ava's poll to remind her to release her tension. The idea is to flex her to the outside for a few steps, then ask for straightness in her poll for several steps, and repeat the process. Going to the right, I have to do the opposite. Ask her to flex to the inside for a few strides, then straight.
Okay, that was the was the broad overview of the lesson.
Here's a bit of video from the week prior to my lesson. We'll have to do a comparison of this one to next week and see if the canter is more balanced. :) Until then, enjoy.