Sweat is what Mr Don said he needed. And Sweat is what he got. I caught Chewie on Saturday (09/06), tacked him up western saddle, english bridle, and we set in the round pen. I warmed him up with walk, a little trot, and a lot of canter. Trot builds muscle, but I wanted him thinking, "I am going to canter with Mom today", so I got all of the chance of canter-buck of out him before getting on. He threw a little mini fit here and there, and had his head out to the right. I figured that was still a little pain and decided that canter-right lead might not be in the cards under saddle just yet.
When I climbed on, we worked on trot right, with great results. Without a side-rein warmup, he was a bit stiff, but quickly loosened up and relaxed his head & poll. I had his mouth, and his attention, but the reins were still on gentle contact. A nice forward trot, good up & down transitions. I focused on "3s".
Reversed to left. Trot 3, walk 2, trot 3, walk 2. I figured if I was going to canter, this was my chance. Trot 1, canter 1.5. I felt like I had lost a little balance in the canter, so I told him, "Sh", just a little bit, hoping he'd just ease up a bit. Nah. He transitioned down immediately into trot, and softened his face. I laughed, realized he gave me what I wanted from "SH", and if I want an easier canter, I'm going to have to find another way to get it. I can't verbally ask for it anymore.. *giggle* Smart little man.
A little more trot left, and back to the right. Focused the last right and left set on "stretching down" trots. He lifted his back and stretched down a few times, so I walked him out. Total work, nearly an hour. He was very cooperative for a horse that hadn't been cantered under saddle in over three months. I was satisfied he was ready to get back in the game.
Sunday, I warmed him up a bit, saw I had his attention, and his brakes. I walked one circle in the round pen, opened the gate from his back, and walked around the pasture. The wind was fierce, and his ears were everywhere. His head was up a bit, so I had just a bit of contact, just enuf that if I had needed it, I could stop him. Walked around for about 15 minutes, and I hopped off. I wanted to "test drive" my new confidence on him, and I think the best way to measure the level of trust in our relationship is trail riding. Anytime we've had success in an enclosed space, it seems to blow apart in the pasture. Since I'm working on his fitness, I figured it's a good time to work on my confidence.
I'm learning that all my horses are waiting on is for me to trust them, and relax. Both are bright enough (now) that they know what's expected, and they know how to stop if I need it. The only thing holding us back, is me, and my fear. I've come a long way, and there's still more to accomplish.