I got a great “reminder” A-ha moment today when I was riding Cava. She has slowly been getting a little behind my leg over the past few days, few weeks? I don’t know exactly how long it’s been because I had noticed it was happening without really paying attention to it. Today was the final straw. I KNOW she and I can do good transitions, and today they were just all sorts of ugly. Either she would ignore me, or swing her butt sideways, or yank against the bit. Then I’d give her a stronger nudge with my leg, and nothing different would happen. Then I’d go to my spur (which in my mind is irritating, I don’t want to have to do that for a simple transition), and she’d get all offended and leap into the transition and throw her head in the air and twist her body around. Ok, so maybe she’s in heat. Or maybe it was a cloudy, rainy day and she felt lazy. Or maybe 100 other excuses. Or…. maybe I had been letting her get away with this.
Obviously going to the spur was not correcting the problem, but it was actually making it worse. Not only was it not getting me a better response to my leg (it wasn’t a one-time correction), but it was also getting me very bad transitions, which previously were quite nice, and only making her attitude more sour and resistant. So I had to pick up a whip. I rubbed it on her so she knew I had it, then I walked her off. I asked her nicely with my leg to trot, and nothing happened, so I gave her a tap behind my leg and she trotted promptly off. We trotted a circle, then I brought her back to walk. Then I asked her to trot again with my leg and got no answer, so again she got a tap with the whip and off she went. Then back to walk. Then I asked her to trot softly with my leg, and immediately she trotted off, pushing with her back legs, lifting her shoulders, and stepping into the bridle. Then I sat, half-halted, and slid my outside leg back and she stepped right into the canter. She was ahead of my aid that time, but I let it go. I had forward back. I could refine the transition easily now. But without forward, there was no transition. Forward must come first.