I wanted to test out some theories so I brought both horses in and locked Irish up for the ride. He was not impressed. Steele was mellow in the cross ties and led up to the ring without any problem. Usually my dogs are around but I put them in the house this time because they were being silly and hyper. I was curious to see how things would go with Steele only having me.
He was nice in our warm up walk- forward moving and relaxed. Not looking around for things to tense at or trying to pick the direction. At our walk I practiced bending lines and leg yields he moved away from my leg quite nicely. He does like to bend his head to the outside to look around- I believe that contributes to my hanging on the inside rein. I really tried to make sure that I had contact on the outside at all times and pulsed the inside to get him to bend. It took a while for us both to get the idea but it became easier.
Our trot work was similar to the walk. I encouraged him to stretch forward into contact from behind but not rush. A few times he broke to canter and I let him carry that few strides before bringing him back. I didn't want to confuse him with 'go forward' 'no, don't go forward'. I was getting frustrated with my inside hand being on too much but honestly- I take that as a positive development. whenever I start to really be frustrated with a part of my riding it heralds a change.
We began to canter. My goal was to get him to relax in the canter. Right now he's using his neck as a balancing rod (as I would expect) but he's sticking it straight up and carrying his body stiffly. As we cantered a circle I made sure that my body was relaxed and asked him to soften in his jaw. It took a few tries but he began to lower his head and soften. At this point he can only maintain that for a few strides so I didn't make a big deal of it. I would simply repeat the ask. On a even more positive note he's not breaking from the canter quite so often and when he does a light squeeze with the legs and he goes back up.
At the end of the ride I wanted to work on our trot-walk transitions. I wanted them soft and forward to walk not a slam down into walk. I would establish a nice forward, soft trot and then ask for the walk. If he was abrupt I simply put us back up to trot and asked again. If it was soft I would praise him and walk a bit longer. I really tried to figure out what he needed from me for this transition to be good. I had to have a soft hand (no surprise) and found that as he was making the transition a few soft bumps with my calves helped him move forward into the walk. I didn't worry if the transition was slow as long as it wasn't abrupt. I feel like we made good progress on it.
So overall I was quite pleased with my pony. Our circles are beginning to look like actual circles, we can travel on straight lines without looking drunk, our steering is 150% better and riding alone is no big deal. I think he was happy with himself as well. He certainly didn't seem to be upset by anything.
|my shaggy, brilliant pony|