We have a lot of work ahead of us. A lot. On his end and on my end. But you know what? I’m finally reaching a point where I’m committed to putting in the effort to make this whole thing happen for us. I know we can get there. Slower than I had hoped but we will get there.
Sunday morning I set out to ride with four homework items in mind:
- Lower my hands and soften quicker when he responds
- Slow my post
- Have a distinct plan and refuse to let him dictate the ride
- Work on true bend through a circle by leg yielding him out while capturing him with my outside rein.
By the end of the hour I could easily check off every single item and felt like I was walking on cloud 9.
Was it easy? Nope.
Was it perfect? Nope.
Did it feel amazing to start with a hot tense mess and end with a slow, relaxed and supple trot through multiple different exercises? Heck yeah it did!
I was proud of myself for being able to apply what she taught me at home alone. He came out ready for a fight. He was an angry, head tossing and tail swishing Appy. We spent a long time at the walk working on the above checklist.
Keep point # 3 in mind I set up two different exercises with ground poles leaving space in the middle for additional work. This way, I always had something to focus on while not drilling the same thing over and over again.
Exercise 1 was two poles set up to create a circle. I worked on this at the lesson and really liked it because it forced me to continue on the same path and focus on the bend. This is where she taught me to really use a leg yield to push him out but making sure I capture him in my outside rein to prevent him trotting or cantering off. It’s hard work for both of us and we were both pretty tired at the end but by golly did he give me some truly wonderfully balanced and bent circles.
Exercise 2 was a set of trot poles along the long side. Apparently trot poles no longer bother him. For me this is a great exercise to work on straightness after all the bending and using a proper half halt to keep him balanced and rhythmic over the poles.
Exercise 3 was performing a larger circle between the other exercises. This gave me a chance to work on bend and pace while having to control the circle without the benefit of the placement poles and still having visible boundaries.
The three all worked on similar things but were just different enough. I really really enjoyed it.
For the entire ride I bounced back and forth between all the exercises and both directions giving a lot of walk breaks and pats for being a good boy. I also rewarded his work by allowing him to work at large once we had achieved what I wanted through that circuit. So I’d work on the circle over the poles and once I felt he was giving me the slightest bit of what I was asking, I’d let him go straight and we would meander around the arena at large for a while. Not only did he get to take a break from the hard work, but it also kept him moving and working in some fashion. He has this habit of thinking all breaks equals finished for the day and will come back to work really angry and tense. By giving him “breaks” from he hard work by walking or trotting at large and then returning to a new exercise to work again, he kept his head int he game for the entire hour.
At the very end I added a new exercise: go straight over one of the circle poles and continue being straight until the fence, turn right, go around and hit the other pole, stay straight until the fence, turn left etc…
Once he was doing that without any opinions on his end, I called it a day.
We didn’t get to the canter but right now I don’t care. A relaxed and slow trot with him out of my hands is my first goal. Once we get that down better I’ll carry that into the canter.
It’s good to feel like we actually accomplished something together and that I dictated the entire ride without letting him bait me or bully me into straying from my path.