Harley amused me Monday evening. I grabbed him quick after work, saddled, and all the extras, and prepared for whatever I'd get. Daylight shortened now, I was a little concerned. Just how much could we accomplish before dusk, deer, dogs, and cows ruined our time...
He lunged out really quiet, and I considered adding the elbow pull and lunging more. I even considered just lunging, and not riding. Oh well, I won't know how he can handle this unless I try. I stuffed my head into the helmet, put his bit on, prayed just a bit, and hopped on.
Awesome. He immediately broke to walk, just as my right foot settled into the stirrup. No time standing around today! Fabulous! I praised and patted, and heard a heavy sigh. Maybe he wasn't supposed to walk on after standing still a while before, but I'm not a big fan of "waiting". His feets are already stickie, no reason to encourage more standing.
I asked for a trot, and only directed his feet, and let him keep whatever tempo he wanted. It easily steadied into a nice posting trot, something I could work with my seat. Feeling a little brave, I asked him to turn on neck rein a while - it's improving. Finally, maybe more stupid than brave, I asked for turns on leg only. Even better! Serpentines, circles, and weavy little figure 8s, and the praise continued. Consistently improving with every cue, and I'm happy for it.
Back down to the walk, and knowing Harley's not a fan yet of bit contact, the weavy little snakey movements, I asked for a straight line. Not on the rail, but by focusing off at an object outside the arena, far off. A significant improvement! Much better and much straighter than we've ever had. Again, much licking, chewing, patting and praise.
Finally, as a last test of "new things", I decided to introduce a little collection, bending at the poll. I brought him to halt, and very lightly picked up both reins, wiggling what in my mind was "inside rein". When he gave at the poll, and collected up, I dropped both reins. This only took two tries before every "inside wiggle" got a bend, and even held it for a few seconds. I squeezed him up to a walk, and tried it some more. This was a little more difficult, but after about four tries, he realized that giving meant I'd let go of the inside rein, and he tried to hold it. Lacking still the muscles to hold it, we'd get about two steps collected before I'd lose it. Still, while they were collected, they felt slow, and stickie. Darn it.. Must find a way to collect and still be forward... I'm not asking for high-collection, just long&low. Not real sure how to accomplish this yet...
My patient student and I headed back to the barn, where I undressed him. I glanced at his mouth, and found the neatest thing. Spit Marks! All around the top of his lips, where the bit was resting. Happy Spit! This is a HUGE FIRST for Harley, as he's always had a dry mouth after work. YahOO! I praised and cheered, cookies abounded, satisfied we'd accomplished something amazing.