On the 27th, Harley and I had a nice longe session together. I introduced him to a new longing device aimed at developing some topline. So far, we've learned side reins aren't the answer, and the modified elbow pull was a complete disaster. I purchased a neck stretcher, and after a loose warmup, I figured it was time to test it out.
And? Success! Harley almost immediately relaxed at the walk, pulling his cute little nose in, and was tracking up and over at the walk. Lots of toosh action there! I clucked him up into the trot, and while it's not perfect, he was at least heading in the right direction, neck down, nose out. It's a start. Heading left, he was a bit ugly at it, but knowing that's his bad direction, I just let him go a while longer. At trot right, it was nearly fantastic, neck down, nose in, that traditional "long & low" we all hope for at Training Level. Beautiful! The canter work wasn't quite as fantastic in either direction, but at least he looked more like a horse and less like a giraffe.
I've committed to leave it kind of loose for a while, and when he can go a ways loose on the stretcher, then I'll shorten it up and start asking for some more intense work. Throughout this, though, I was happy to see his trot didn't shorten stride or get lazy. He was still quite forward and proud of himself about it.
Total work 3/27 - about 40 minutes.
On the 28th, Jen came over, and as she walked to the arena, Harley put on quite the show (translation: baby bucks heading canter left after I gave the longe line a solid tug. See, Harley thought he could gallop off like a nut, and I tugged to ease him down to a respectable canter. He didn't think that was funny, and put on a great buck display). I've started to realize that after a few of these, he's spending the first 5-10 longe minutes getting the baby booger off, taking off like a crazy baby, and if I restrict that, he's bucking, looking for another place to get that energy out. Baby Baby Baby...
Since he seemed to settle down, but still resembled an ugly giraffe, I bitted him and put the neck stretcher on again, this time only a few minutes each way walk and trot.
I hopped on (from the ground), and we got down to business. As I picked up the trot, it turns out Harley's new found forward trot is a little more than I was ready for mentally. I was fiddling with the Myler combo bit too much, and Harley expressed his genuine disapproval of my fiddling, leaning on it, mouthing it, and fussing back at me. I gave in, and switched him back to his "baby bit", the french link loose ring he's been longing in. He relaxed, which in turn calmed me.
At the trot, I was trying to post, in stirrups that my feet can't quite reach again, being out of shape. Jen suggested to me, "Why don't you try to sit it, maybe that will help both of you?" I giggled at the general thought, not knowing if my hips would relax into it worth a darn. I surprised myself - apparently I did learn something last year in that "sit the trot on Ransom" 2010 goal. I settled into a sitting trot, and noticed Harley didn't really change stride, but seemed to relax a little bit more. On a nearly loose rein, we were trotting the circle, with a general bit of guidance from me. Knowing we needed success in the other direction sitting trot, I told Harley, "Alright, dear. I know you've been working quite a long time now, and you're pooped. This last bit is for me, not for you. Time to train the Momma again." He obliged, and trotted around happily while I found my hips and balance the other direction.
Total work 3/28, a bit over an hour. He worked hard, but was cooperative all but those first few minutes.