Chewie, Western, hour's work. He warmed up great, and I could just about tell it was going to be a purdy neat day.
Robin arrived, I climbed on, and quickly demonstrated all of our hard efforts. Two canters right, two canters left, one horrid cross-fire canter headed left. On the cross-fire, the front legs were on the right lead, back legs on left. It felt horrid, but familiar enough to make me believe he's done that before. Strange... A little break to get his mind back on the game, and he responded with a beautiful left-lead canter.
I am supposed to work on "sliding my hips" at canter. It's a very strange thought, because I can't remember ever seeing a rider "sliding in the saddle" in the canter. They move with the horse, but not move around in the saddle. Must pay closer attention next time I go anywhere... very unfamiliar idea.
After about 45 minutes of me & Chewie work, I walked him into Robin, and said, "Get your helmet." As she mounted, I reminded her, "You've seen how quiet he can be, on a *loose* rein. Don't pull up or back in the transition, and he'll stay quiet." As she asked for a trot, he started to pull his head down & in, almost asking, "Alright, lady. Last time, you tried to pull my teeth out. You gonna let me have some rein today, or am I going to have to pull them from you?" She did a little trot, a little canter both ways. His first canter left, looked good. Robin stayed in the middle of him, and kept the reins loose. She took up a little inside rein, Chewie lost his balance, stumbled a little, and went right to trot, then straight to walk. She caught her breath, admitted she pulled up on the rein, and they reversed. First canter right, she asked a little strong, and he gave about five strides before she got nervous. I told him, "Chewie, sshhhhh", and he gave a beautiful down transition to trot. They talked to each other about it, and she asked for a second canter right. Chewie responded well. I noticed a lot more of Robin's upper body moving forwards & backwards during his canter. After she finished her ride, we discussed. She is finally, the first person, ever, to recognize that Chewie's left & right canter are completely different, much like riding two completely different horses. To the left, he's uphill, balanced, and coordinated all on his own. To the right, he's downhill, pushing from the rear-end, and not as balanced. Riding to the left, it's pretty easy to "keep him together", move with him, push with my seat, and even add a little rein contact. To the right, it's going to be more of a battle to keep me balanced, let myself move with him, not ask for rein contact yet, let him continue to learn how to balance, and hope he'll become more uphill. It's worth nothing, that, both of us believe, within a few years' time, after he gets more balanced & put together at canter, it won't be much effort to get him in a neck-reined, long & low, WP lope. He's almost downhill enough now, with canter-right, his head almost never comes up above the saddle, and to the left, it's only a bit elevated. He's just about doing the work on his own now. It won't take much.
So my boy is gaining coordination, and confidence. He's less worried about keeping me safe, and staying in the gait, and concentrating a bit more about staying moving. He's enjoying his jobs, as every day, he's at least taking a few steps towards me when I'm catching. I am happy, he's happy, and we're enjoying our time riding. There's a switch! Usually by now in the summer, it's a game to catch him, and any time he would canter, I could count on at least one paniced attack each week. Confidence.. the new word of July.
Planning another schooling show practice session, but this time with Chewie. Either July 27th hunters like Romeo did, or July 20th Dressage Intro & GAG. Same location, but different horse. I can only imagine the looks I'll get when I dismount the trailer, Chewie in-hand. Puny pony Romeo got all the looks, plenty of, "She's gonna do *what* with that little Quarter Horse? She's NUTS!", and a little, "Wow, he's pretty colored.. whattdoyou call that color??" I can just guess the comments of a 16.2H, full-muscled, stocky, calm, so-laid-back, can't-believe-he-used-to-race" TB. Bring it on, Chewie.. Bring it on.