...Continued from my previous post.
In the middle of the night I woke up convinced that I had been pinching Steele with my thighs during my ride and that caused the problem. To clarify pinching with my thighs is an old riding vice that I worked very hard to get rid of years ago. I know that during my ride I worked hard to ensure my legs were soft but at 3 a.m. the world looks very different and your mind can go into free association.
Whether that conviction reflected reality or not I did know that my next ride had to be very very good. That's because I was going away and Steele was going to have the week off. Horses have excellent memories so I wanted to ensure that his memory was of a good session not a bad one.
When I came home from work I gave myself some time to relax and for the temperature to cool before going out. I realized that I had actual butterflies. Not that I was scared of coming off but I was nervous that I would screw it up. However, faint heart and all that.
I brought both horses in and then got Steele ready. I used the thinner saddle pad this time just in case that was contributing (next time I will bring up two saddle pads and try them during the ride to see). I made sure that our lunge work focussed on three things:
1. forward- no sluggish ambles, half-hearted trots or lazy canters allowed
2. obedience-Steele had to be prompt. I was okay with a couple strides to sort out the trot-canter transition but not with a "just a minute" response.
3. tuning in-I wanted at least one ear on me at all times.
Once I was satisfied with the ground work I mounted. I took up a light contact and walked some figures while making sure that my legs were stretched out and soft and my hand was following and my seat was soft and under me. I didn't let him decide which way we were going but made sure that we changed directions many times. Once I was sure our walk was forward I asked for a trot. And off we went. Again we did lots of figures, bending and changes of directions. I worked on trot-walk-trot transitions on straight aways, circles, and figure 8s. There was a slight hesitation right at the beginning on the far side but I made sure that my legs encouraged forward without clamping. We had breaks and then returned to work. I made sure that I was clear in my praise of what I wanted. Near the end I could feel him slowing up. Normally I would stop but this time I decided that he couldn't be THAT tired and we needed to work just a bit more. So I asked for a forward trot. And got it. After a few circles I stopped, dismounted and we were done.
I felt pleased with him and myself. Neither one of us will be reflecting on a bad ride during our break.