I was sitting having coffee with a dressage friend a couple of weeks ago and was chatting about Rogo's trot having deteriorated and how I was working on it. She said to me, "well you have to go back and get it", in a very immediate and almost bewildered way. There was absolutely no hesitation in knowing it needed to be done, and I think, although kind, she wondered if I understood how important this basic piece was and that I just couldn't go further without it. I did know, but until she said it I think I thought if we just kept working along, knowing it needed some focus, that it would come. I'm so thankful she said it because it made me realize it needed to be solidly ingrained, NOW, no ifs, ands of buts. My long time teacher Joan hasn't been able to work with me in a while.
So since that conversation I've been more aware of that being #1. We do free lunging over poles, free jumping, me running with him, lots of walk trot transitions, etc.
Yesterday, for the second time in a few days, I lunged Rogo and really focused on forwardness in the trot. I want a nice working trot, and after a fair warm up, I want it when I ask, not five minutes later. He is getting more forward and responsive. We did lots of walk trot transitions and then I rode, doing the same thing. We only did walk and trot, and practiced lots of forwardness, bending and transitioning back to walk and up again. I felt like I was starting at the beginning of his training again, and was surprised at how weak these basic moves were when I paused to really isolate them and focus on them.
When he realized I was going to ask for a trot after only a few walk steps he decided he'd just slow the trot. Although I insisted on getting what I asked for, speeding up and slowing down the trot can be helpful too.We used to do this with Joan and it worked very well, wonders in fact. Cheryl doesn't do this, but I think I'll start practicing it on my own.
I discovered a great little trick for getting a good halt while we were doing this. When he's trotting and I ask for a walk, he's expecting to trot again immediately, so when I give the halt aid after one walk step he is instantly in a square, engaged halt - I love it!
This is taking time, but it's time well spent and it has to be done. It needs a lot more work but I think it's coming. I could put spurs on and get there faster, but I've set a goal to get my legs stronger this winter and it won't happen if I start using spurs for a crutch. I'll use them eventually as an aid, but not until everything is working adequately without them.