Absolutely convinced the lunge warmup takes more out of Ransom that it does good, I walked him tacked to the arena in a brisk manner. Bridled, clipped my helmet clasp, and hopped aboard. On Saturday, Jen and I discussed a plan for warming him up without the need of lunging. He's not super stiff, he's almost NEVER galloping goofy anymore, and I need to build the confidence that I can just "get on & ride".
For his warmup, I
-walked once around on the buckle, both directions
-trotted on light contact, serpentines, circles, figure eights, never staying straight for more than 7-8 strides before a direction change
-cantered on a loose rein
In fact, on one long side each direction, I tossed the reins away & tested my airplane arms at canter. Exhilarating is the best word I can use to describe it. I felt like I was flying, Ransom as the pilot. He picked up on the airplane arms almost immediately after I started, I suspect from the more upright less directional body language, and responded back to me by staying right at the rail, never increasing or decreasing speed or stride length. We *must* do this more often.
After ten minutes like this, I got right down to business. I collected, and we focused on all three gaits with lots and lots and lots of transitions. Plenty of direction changes, and I found only one thing that made my butt curl - UGLY trot to walk down transitions. Just UGLY. He was leaning on the forehand, and pulling me out of the saddle. It was taking anywhere from 8 to 10 strides to get down to a walk. I've got a solution, and it's the twisted ring bit. A few days of that ugly monster, I'll have his brain back and we can get pretty transitions again.
Something I LOVED yesterday? Fabulous in and outs from canter. Just fabulous. Something else? Collected walk to free walk. Impressive. No head-tossing, no pulling the reins out of my fingers. We did this work waaay late in the ride, probably another half hour after warmup. He was eager for the break, and let me know that all those hours before giving & taking the bit at walk have paid off.
We cooled down with long & low at canter - I let him chew the reins out of my hands, hold there a stride or three, then collect back the reins, lather rinse repeat. The same at trot, on BIG circles. My new arena no longer holds a 20m circle, it's much more like 30-35m circles. Nice big huge circles to focus on the stretching down trot circles.
Overall, a great ride, with a few snags. I should be able to get those down transitions fixed in the next few days on the other bit. In the meanwhile, I'm going to search for a book, audio lesson, or some online patterns to mix up the rides. I'm going to search for some new exercises to mix up the flat work.
Plans for the weekend ought to be finalized today. As it stands now, it's looking like a Blue Ribbon lesson on Saturday, and Freestyle show on Sunday.