Romeo is back to work. We've been working 3-5 days a week, in the arena, focused on increasing intensity and time at each gait. This past week, I finally let him be a nut on the longe line for about 15 minutes. Why? Because he was being a nut in the pasture, and it was better I could control where he was than him running wild. The other two days I rode him, I cantered. A teensy little bit. 30m circles, once each way the first day, twice each way the second day. I expected some wildness, but was delighted to get a hesitant canter. He feels a little stiffer going left, expected as the left front had the injury. Still, he's moving nice, and will now be able to start getting back to work more often.
Harley and I had a nice lesson at BRM. I was hoping to ride some jump basics, but that sure didn't happen. I arrived there to 40F temperatures, and a brisk wind. He handled it really well, more interested in all the other horses than the weather. Me? I was froze, and tense, and knew full well this wasn't a day I could calm down in a postage-stamp saddle enough to push him over fences.
Instead, we wandered to the covered arena, and had a dressage lesson. And a lesson it was! I rode a little, Barb rode a little, and she decided it would be easier to teach him true shortened dressage reins and beginning collection from the ground. Barb reintroduced him to longe line with side reins, quite the feat. I explained Harley had been hollow and tense on the side reins with me. She showed that's because they were too long, and he "had an out". After 20 minutes of longing, she put me back on top. Myler combo bit, and the reins are now on the bottom hole. I laughed when she said, "You know, I think, in your hands, even on the lowest hole on that bit, you've got less leverage than a real snaffle!"
I was praised for my leg control. And seat control. And core body position. However, from the elbows down, I'm losing it. I'm not "holding on to him". Harley gives just a tiny bit at the poll, I release all rein pressure, and he pokes his nose back out. We rode for at least another half hour, lots of transitions. LOTS. Mostly trot/canter/trot. Biggest focus? MUCH shorter reins, and quiet hands. I found myself ignoring everything else, and trying to keep my hands soft but steady. I even realized I let my hands reach forward with every try Harley gives. Now, I'm focusing on keeping them steady front-to-back. Barb put some white tape on the reins, so I wouldn't go home guessing, "So is that where they go??"
We checked my jump saddle. No-go on saddle fit. This has been an ongoing problem, and it's not getting better. I have one more gullet to try, but based on some other efforts at home, I don't think it'll help. I've got three 17" English saddles and one 16" Western barrel saddle for sale... Ask me for details.
Harley *does* now understand what a stretchy trot break is. We had a serious argument our first ride back home after the lesson. I think he was hoping for "business as usual" back at home, and hoped an argument might get him out of work. The next day (after a jump saddle near-disaster), I hopped straight on bareback, and shortened up the reins to the tape. Outstanding. Harley relaxed immediately, came up to the bit, and stayed there. Steady for walk/halt/walk and walk/trot/walk. I kept things short, hoping he'd make a connection to his good behavior.
I do hope soon to have some video of the new reins and my hand position. At least for my own reference.
2013 goals coming soon.. if I can figure out what I want them to be.