Tonight started with my lesson on Lola... (You can see the full description on her blog http://mytrainingproject.blogspot.com/ which might help since I don't want to run through it twice!) I'll be doing Tuesday night lessons with her until she sells, and since its a night I don't see my boyfriend anyway, I have the time to ride Bear afterward. This worked out great tonight since I could take all the exercises I had just been working on with Lola and apply them to where Bear is in his training.
So here's where he's at now:
He's come out of pasture in great shape. His canter looks awesome on the lunge line, nice and uphill and light.
He's focused and responsive to what I'm asking while lunging. He's getting back into the swing of things with the side reins.
The only rides I've done on him for the last two months have been bareback, so we just did circles, steering, little yielding shoulders or haunches, and picking up the trot for 5 to 10 steps then coming back down to the walk.
Here's where he was at this time last year:
Working well at walk, trot, and canter.
Accepting the contact, although never really on the bit.
Usually heavy on the forehand and rushing forward a bit. Needing work on tempo.
If I really held him together, we could for a do steady and reasonably balanced walk, trot, canter on a 20 meter circle with changes in direction from circle to straight.
He really got the concept of accepting the contact and maintaining a bend.
By the end we were able to do a walk-trot-walk transition that was balanced, with a bend to the inside, and with acceptance of the bit.
His tempo is great.
He is happy to be worked again, and it was a total light bulb turning on sort of night!
How it came together:
So we started out with small circles to ask for a lot of bend and encourage him to make contact with the outside rein and then even reach down for the bit. (Again, Lola's blog has got the scoop.) He wasn't really getting it. He was trying, but only succeeding in stiffly turning his head in. I awarded some near success by changing direction or walking off to another part of the arena, then tried again and again. Still not much.
Next we started the never ending trot circle. This is something that we did in the very first lesson with Lola. Focusing on tempo and rhythm and maintaining a steady contact even when they are resisting. He did that a ton... giraffe trotting around like I'm tearing at his face. I kept up the patiently keeping a light but steady contact no matter where he put his head, and he started, just a little to accept it. Still no bend, still no reaching for the bit. Again I rewarded the tiniest effort, but no real break through.
Back to walk circle exercise, and FLASH! The light bulb goes on. He suddenly gets round in his neck, bends both directions when asked, maintained a slight bend along the straight parts, AND started stretching his nose to the ground when I fed out the reins while pushing him along with my legs. What a difference!
So we tried it at the trot to the left. Start him bending and push him into the trot while keeping that bend. Magic! He's suddenly trotting so much better! Unbelievable difference from the resistance before. I even sort of thought it was a fluke. Like he was better on his left, and it was his right that caused the problem. So back to the right, and he was just as a amazing! He just plain got it. Of course he's not perfectly steady about the contact, and once he got it both directions so well I was so floored that I hopped off and gave him a big hug! He's taken the big step of understanding what I'm asking, now we just need the time to build up the consistency.
I'm really looking forward to getting him back into training mode. As much as I love Lola, somehow Bear is just more of my type of horse. I just feel better on him, which is good, since he's the one I'm keeping! I am going to make the most out of my lessons by applying the week's homework to both horses, and I really think he'll catch up to her in no time.
It felt so good to really be back at it.