Back to regular working hours, I've been running like a nut in the mornings. Tackling projects, conquering unknown territory, functioning like the mad scientist. About four hours of that chaos, and I'm exhausted. A co-worker cautioned me to "not overdo it", and I'm finding that difficult. When I arrived home Tuesday, I found myself postponing my extra-set of assisting eyes, and asked Jen if we could reschedule. Frustrating, as I felt like I should be on-task.
I dressed to longe (i.e. teeshirt, shorts), and grabbed Harley. I saddled him up Western, because the neck stretcher just works better attached to his saddle cinch. Off to the arena we went. Fortunately, I grabbed my helmet too, because I ended up using it.
I free-longed him, no neck stretcher, for about fifteen minutes, maybe less. Harley was moving as lazy as I felt, a sign that either the new weather conditions we were having either wore him down, or he could feel me through the line, not really caring about a serious day. Either way, I had to push him forward at the trot, and he had no intentions on keeping the canter for more than a circle or two. His movement at the canter was cadenced, and delightful. It looked quite pretty, and gave me hope that he can relax his neck at the canter, and move along at a steady three-beat gait, without looking close to a gallop. Pretty baby H!
Deciding I needed a goof-off day, and Harley needed some proof my trust in him is like his trust in me - growing, I bitted him and hopped on. We didn't work on halts, we didn't work on big forward walk, we just rode. As long as his feet were moving at a steady walk, I let him go anywhere in the arena he wanted to. It tickled me that, out of the whole arena, he chose trying to stop at the back-back corner, farthest away from the house, the barn, the gate, the mounting block, and the pond. We were in the BACK of the pasture almost. I directed some of his steps, to keep him moving in different places in the arena, over a couple ground poles, around a few cones, and close to the rail all around a little. It was relaxing, completely loose rein, no pressure to "do it right", just take me somewhere, so my mind can be anywhere but on how tired I feel.
After maybe fifteen minutes, we were both kinda bored, and Harley showed me so by stumbling and tripping, as if the arena was suddenly so irregular he couldn't lift his feet high enough. I asked for a few halts, got them steady and stayed. Good deal. I flexed him left and right, and got results much like Sunday - good right, iffy left. Things to work on.
I thought a while about what else we could do that would be low-key, low-energy, but perhaps teaching. I stopped him, and rubbed all over, everywhere my body could reach. Up his neck, between his ears, along the bridle browband, all over his toosh, legs swishing along his sides. Harley yawned, lowered his head, and cocked a back leg. Alrighty, then. Body desensitizing under saddle, complete.
Then, I asked for turns on the forehand. Just barely disengage your hindquarters, Harley. Yup, that's it! Two steps, each direction, with barely any effort on my part. I asked for turns on the haunches. Ew, a little stickie. He might've had one cross-over step or two in there, but most were shuffles. With minor protest, and some wiggles, he did do it, demonstrating he learned the lesson on the ground, and just needs to translate it to saddle. As he got just a slight bit antsy on his halts, inching his butt to one side or the other, I asked for a few walk/halt/walk/halt, and got quiet stops.
A total of a whopping 35 minutes in the arena. I didn't ask for hard work. Harley hadn't even broke a sweat when we were done, and he was dozing while I unsaddled him. He's still the baby, and while I need to remember that, I think the occasional "trust me, and just relax" rides are good for both of us.