I tossed my work things in the kitchen, let the dogs run & potty, and changed into a tank top and my western boots. Ransom needed a solid lunging, so there was no point in dressing to ride. If I stayed outta my paddocks & breeches, left my saddle in the laundry room, I woudn't be tempted.
Fit Ransom up with his surcingle, side reins, twisted loose ring bit, polos up front, grabbed the lunge line, and offs we went. Got to the arena, lunged him first off the halter only. Put the bit and side reins on, but kept the halter over top. Lunged him for 25 minutes off of his halter, but with the side reins. We did a good dozen direction changes, and a zillion transitions. I kept no gait for any more than two circles before changing. Canter for only a circle at a time, as this is what will be expected in TL1&2. The side reins were tighter than normal, as I didn't run them through the lowest surcingle loop, but up one. They weren't flapping loose, but I did see some relaxing through his neck and back. It took the full 25 minutes of hard work before he was attentive and working hard. He did a lot of huffing and puffing, but remained rather cheerful.
I took the surcingle off. I took the halter off, I took the side reins off, I took a long hard breath, and I mounted up. I tried not to think through all the bad things that could happen. I didn't once consider "Holy crap he might not have done this before, he might spook, I might fall, holy crap!" Ransom didn't walk off as soon as my weight reached his back. He stood there pretty still, and with some leg pressure, moved off at a walk. I only let him walk forward about five steps before testing his brakes. "Whoa!" I said sharply, squeezing the reins and my knees. He stopped, and dropped his head, with a very big sigh. Knowing this was going to be just fabulous, I moved him off at a walk.
I worked on staying relaxed, and feeling every leg move. I kept him collected, with a few releases for a long free walk. I went on a loose rein just for a bit, to again test the brakes. "Whoa", I told him more softly, with a squeeze of the knees. He stopped again with a heavy sigh.
We focused on the low circle for the ride. I got into a corner, collected again, half-halt, and added calf pressure. He dropped his nose, and sprung into a trot. As I asked, for a brief second I thought, "Well, if I lose my balance, he's got plenty of mane, and I know how to hop off without breaking anything." Our trot work was more than fabulous. I can't say it was a strong working trot, tracking under, but he was collected. The moment he'd lose it, I could feel my balance shift, and the sit hard to keep. When he was collected up, though, magical is the only way to describe it. I rode trot in both directions, with a few changes and plenty of transitions. I experimented with a forward/backward hip movement, and a left/right hip movement, and found the forward/backward a little easier to sit with him. Anytime I moved left/right, I felt my balance slipping away. Never once did I grab that wad of mane, never once did I tense up & holler "whoa", afraid I was heading to the dirt.
I rode for nearly twenty more minutes before calling him "done". He was sweaty, and tired. We'd worked for nearly 45 minutes, after three wet rainy days off. We are back in action, and I accomplished a goal I didn't see coming for at least another year - I rode Ransom bareback, walk and trot, in the arena.