Longed Harley in the neck stretcher, but with really only one thing in mind, Canter Left. He had enough trot work to relax his neck and reach forward with his legs, but then we quickly moved up to canter. About two circles right lead, but six or more left lead, two circles at a time, trot transitions in between to relax him. He had the incorrect lead once, but eased back to trot and quickly corrected himself.
I hopped aboard, got some relaxed and forward trot, and asked for canter right to start. We rode in the back 2/3 of the arena, and I pushed him to canter on the rail straightaways. At first, I got all kinds of hesitation, us having not cantered really more than big circles so far. I kissed, squeezed, sat deep, and he continued on. Two "laps" canter right.
Back to the trot long enough to feel a relaxing, and then to walk for a breathing break. I loosened the reins at the walk, and he reached down and through. I felt him stretch from neck to tail, and praised him verbally and with a scratching pat and love. YAY... The first good work at a free walk. Understanding how we got here, I didn't leave him the free stretched out walk but for 7-8 strides before regathering up the reins. Another ten strides collected walk, and back to a free walk, similar results, a good stretch down. Success!!
Up to left, and I started out at the trot. Knowing our assignments, I squeezed to canter. Ugh, wrong lead first request. Back to trot 3-5 strides, then kiss/squeeze again. Left lead! On the circle, I aimed him down the long side. As soon as he realized he wasn't going to continue on the circle, he broke to trot. I asked again, wrong lead. Hmph! Trot, ask again. Left Lead... I pushed him down the other long side, and rode 2/3 of the lower end of the arena. We rode canter for at least 2 big laps of the lower 2/3, settled to a trot, and a little walk break. When he gave up a heavy huge sigh, I halted. I noticed his heart was pounding, and he felt like he was shaking a little. Harley turned his neck towards me, and I saw a very nervous eye. Poor kid, he was scared of all that canter. I noticed my heart was pounding, too. We walked a while to catch our breaths and relax. "It's okay, Baby Harley. I'll get us through this, somehow..."
Recognizing he's depending on me to keep him up in the canter left, and he absolutely needs me to be rock solid confident, I pushed him back to trot. A little anxious, I could feel the tension in his neck and mouth. A few circles of varying sizes, and I saw the eyes relax, as he gave me a very heavy sigh. I squeezed and kissed again. Correct left lead.
Another 3 laps or so of the back 2/3rds. I used the longe circle to initiate the canter, and then immediately pointed him down the long side. It took a good squeeze and kiss to let him realize I really meant go straight. A bit of uncertainty in his legs, but he kept on going. When we settled to trot, he immediately stretched forward on the loose rein, searching for the bit. I adjusted just enough that he could find it quickly, and then asked for a stretchie down trot. Success again...
To work on his confidence beyond the circle, I asked for trot on centerline and quarterlines. Amazing... The kid who used to be wobbly outside the circle, was nearly perfectly straight on those imaginary lines. I no longer have to look up to the treeline straight ahead, but can concentrate straight eye level for me, and he stays straight. Fantastic!
About an hour's work. Harley was rewarded with lots of walk on a loose rein, followed up by ample cookies and praise. He's learning, and it's pretty cool he's depending on me to teach. *mush*