Getting back in the tack after the soreness eased up a bit, and the rains came & went...
Thursday, I longed Harley out a little, and found him quiet and confident. Nice. Saddled up dressage, I quickly remembered the one drill from the lesson ---
Trot a small circle, then quickly depart into canter. Amazing. Got some nice transitions out of that little exercise. Something to remember for warmup at the show, for sure. Also need to remember to exaggerate the bend in the warmup, and not worry about it being "pretty".
To reinforce the "stop when I exhale", we did some serious transitions - and I mean serious. Walk/halt, trot/halt, canter/halt. Only one of them was seriously ugly, and after one ugly canter/halt, he was paying attention, and realized that exhale/shh means slow down, and "whoa", means right this minute, or as soon as possible. No dilly-dally around, and I even intentionally had crappy balance and posture for a few of those. While I know darn well I need to work on staying relaxed, and asking for a quiet transition when he freaks out, he also needs to hold up his end of the partnership, and that's actually slowing down when he's told to.
He behaved so amazingly well in the flat work, I saw the X set up on the long side, and thought, "that'd make a nice reward for all the job well done here." I pointed him to it at trot.
Stopped. Flat dead stopped. I knew it wasn't high, so I made him step over it anyways. It took three more trips before he stepped over it semi-confident. :( Dang. We changed direction and things were better - still hesitant to start, then he got better. By the ride's end, I had all trot-over steps over the X. Once or twice, he actually jumped and landed in a canter over the ground pole following. I could feel the hesitation, and I felt pretty bad for him.
Yesterday, jump saddle. He was lazy to start, as usual. Flat work was alright - I didn't push for lots of bend in the start, but rode some cute trot serpentines, and while it wasn't pretty, he was bending in the turns, and paying attention.
Sent him at trot to the X, no refusal, no hesitation. Both directions. Not so much "jumping", which is disappointing, but I didn't have my whip in-hand, so he probably needed more trot energy going in to get a good jump. I stayed happy with the trot-overs.
Pointed him at the 19" vertical from trot - stop. s.t.o.p. I gave him a good pat, and sent him away at a trot again. Lots more trot energy going in (thanks to tapping him with the reins a bit), and I purposely squeezed in front of it, staring at the tree tops outside the arena. Boing! A nice step-over. He didn't exactly jump it beautiful, but he went over. Landed in canter, over the ground pole away, and settled to trot with an exhale. EXACTLY what I worked on Thursday. Terrific.
We repeated the vertical from trot both directions a few times, and realizing he was paying attention, and quiet, I quit. Shorter ride Friday than Thursday by only a few minutes, but it was nice. I didn't want to add a second jump after the X, and I sure didn't want to worry about canter ground poles or otherwise. He was quiet, and seemed to be gaining some confidence, so I left it right there.
Today, we've got help. The plan is to ride the X, add another X after it, then a small vertical after it. After that, it's canter a ground pole, then a slightly elevated ground pole, to an X, to a vertical. All trot first, then canter next. It's going to be a long ride, and I expect he'll probably have a few "enter canter, then break to trot" right in front of a jump or three. It's okay. Baby steps.
I've come to realize the show will be serious practice rather than "competition" this time around. We won't score high, the judge will probably say "no jump", or score us low for breaking gait in front of something. But that's alright. Last Saturday's accident had a bigger impact on Harley than I thought it would. No reason to rush, we're not trying to compete the "big leagues", and I don't have any membership fees banking on year-end awards. His trot-to things is going very well, and since I know he can do it at trot, there's no reason that can't continue.