Sometimes all it really takes is asking the right question the right way to get the right answer. You'd think I'd know this by now! Gabe is very particular about how I ask him things, especially new things. He'll offer up everything he knows to try to get what he thinks I'm looking for (he lives to please, he really does) and I can't get mad because he's trying...I just haven't been asking in a language he understands.
My lesson this Sunday opened up a new door for us, one I've been struggling to open for quite a while.
Turns out, I was asking not only too much, but not asking quite right. Once I asked the question in a way he understood, you could see him think "Oh! That's what you want! Okay! You got it."
We have lateral movement! Yes! And it didn't take him long to figure it out...I think it took ME longer to ask the question most effectively.
See, I've been dropping my hip, which drops my shoulder, which puts me in a funky unbalanced position which, in turn, puts him in a funky, unbalanced position and he would kind of wiggle around like a snake: Haunches over here, body over there, head and neck somewhere else completely. Never quite achieving sideways.
All it took was me sitting straight, squeezing with my outside leg, using a shift in my body weight that's a lot like sliding sideways (his body mirrors mine!) while opening the inside rein and leg (turns out I was inadvertantly blocking with those, too), look in the direction I wanted to go and BAM! There he went, right over like it was no thing.
Granted, BAM! is a whole lot more little movement than big, a foot at a time (and I was expecting way too much sideways when I first started asking), but he has definitely figured it out. I learned too that I do have to look in the direction I want to go, not straight ahead, something I didn't realize I wasn't doing until it was pointed out. He taught me that fast...I was asking asking asking the right way with my leg and body and he wasn't getting it...and Cindy (my instructor) caught it fast as she walked behind us watching what I was doing. "Hey! Where are you looking?" Oh crap. Yeah, not looking where I wanted him to go! Turn my head, apply the aids, and over he went. And people think riding is just sitting there letting the horse do all the work!
When I rode again last night we worked on lateral movement (as well as impulsion, rhythm and rounding) and he got it. He might be getting it TOO much, I'd give the aids and he'd fly over sideways...not precisely what I want, but we'll work on tuning that, too. We want to keep it slow, a step or two at a time so he doesn't end up on the forehand or popping a shoulder or leaning too much to become unbalanced. Slowly but surely, we'll get there!