So, over my last 3 rides on Spirit, something finally clicked. I need to add leg in order to slow down in a balanced fashion. Multiple trainers have been yelling this at me for quite some time now, but yet it took about a year for me to actually get it with my body. Well, better late than never, I always say! Me getting it started with our recent canter/gallop work, where I got the hang of speeding up properly. Slowing down was definitely more of a challenge (something we're still working on) - miss Spirit would much rather go from a fast canter to a fast trot rather than to a slow canter. I've learned that the only way to keep her in the canter is to add leg. If I just pull down, she falls out. It's been coming together where I add leg to keep her cantering while also half halt to slow the pace. Then my body started using that when coming to the jumps. Then my brain caught on to this whole thing. Awesome. =]
As of my lesson last night, I'm feeling pretty good about my progress in this respect. The brain-leg-hand connection in terms of slowing down is doing pretty well. I'm sure its still taking me much longer than it should to slow down and rebalance, but at least I'm doing it in the right way.
Meanwhile, Spirit and I are also starting our journey on lead changes. She'll do them when turned out (and has since she was young) and she does them on occasion when jumping. But now we're asking her to do it - requiring her to actually think about it. Previously, I think she was just doing it without thinking. She prefers to pick up her left lead instead of her right, so I need to work on bending her to the right more often and more dramatically to loosen her body properly. Sometimes she gets frustrated with trot-changes, so she'll just lead change and be done with it :) which is great except that she needs to be able to do it even if she isn't frustrated with trotting - she needs to do it on command.
We get our changes (or at least a half-change) when I am able to keep her balanced and then ask her hip to move towards the lead I desire. Unfortunately, I can't seem to rebalance her while turning - its just too much for my brain-body connection to handle. Using inside leg to push her out on the circle while using outside leg to push her hip in towards the circle plus not letting her fall out (using both legs??) is just too much for me to handle! =P Something I need to work on. I used to have this same problem with turning + slowing down, and turning + staying square. I'll get it one of these days, I just need to practice, practice, practice.
Well, only one more lesson left before our XC schooling at Shepherd Ranch. I'm glad this whole virus thing has settled down quite a bit.