11.04.11: One Transition to Another

I am pleased as punch that the weather is getting better and better which makes it much easier to get time in to work the horse. It makes it much easier to want to work the horse! Monday was above 80, though slightly sticky, but not warm enough to make it uncomfortable, for me anyway. Storm on the other hand was a bit tacky to the touch when I went to get him from the field. His shedding coat was matted with dirt and curls of shedding hair from just standing in the pasture.
I got everything set up at the picnic table behind the barn and spent time grooming him in the vain attempt to get the dirt off of his sticky coat. The effort wasn't worth a whole lot and so I did the best I could before saddling him up. I was surprised to find that the girth went up a couple more holes than it usually did, but was pleased that he wasn't quite so rotund as he had been through the winter.
We headed down to the arena and took up the space at the end since there were others riding already. He was a bit tense, so I backed the balance bands down one notch in the front to allow him more room to move so that I did not set him into hard work before he was really well focused to do so. I sent him out on the circle, and he settled in without too much fuss. I quickly noticed that the bands were both loosening completely at points within his strides so I stopped him to shorten them back up again. He went right back to work and settled into the walk with no trouble, so I began asking for the trot. He was putting some really strong effort into the trot transitions and was looking better and better. His neck was staying soft, and he was working hard at pushing more from the hind end rather than pulling so much from the front. I did note that he seemed to pull more to the outside even though we were going to the right. I had to work pretty hard to maintain a consistent spot in my circle, and even took a break and held the rope in my left hand for a while to stretch out the tension in my hand.
He was doing well and beginning to get a bit winded, so I decided it was a good time to ask for a canter transition. When he tipped onto the forehand at the trot I started clicking twice and gently raising the stick asking for the canter. He sped up and pushed faster, and I continued to ask gently fully prepared for him to throw a fit, but it never came. He continued to barrel forward at the trot while I continued urging and finally a canter happened. It was probably not the most balanced canter, but he really put a lot of effort into it and held onto it for several strides before dropping back down into the trot. He plowed around at the trot for a while before settling back into a lovely walk. We played with the walk trot transitions more as I let him cool down a bit and recover himself since it was fairly warm for being half covered in a winter coat.
We changed directions and got back to business going left. He settled into the work and was not pulling as hard in this direction as he had been going to the right. He was not falling into the circle, but was not pulling out either. I am not convinced that he was truly balanced but at least it wasn't as much work for me to hold him there. He was struggling to maintain the trot for more than a few strides so I decided to ask for the canter again and was fully prepared for a relapse thinking the first time must have been a fluke. Interestingly he gave me the same result, trotting faster and faster until finally he ended up cantering. I am not sure he was on the correct lead, but again he was able to maintain it for a handful of strides before dropping back into the trot. He held the trot for much longer, though his head was quite high in the air through most of it, but the canter transition gave him the impulsion to hold onto the trot longer. He experimented and worked with his balance for quite some time in and out of the trot, but was holding the trot for more strides than he was prior to the canter transition.
I let him cool out for a while before quitting and changing out the lunge line for the reins. He seems to do better when I am riding him now, and had more control than our last ride. I was able to keep him somewhat off the rail so that he was not leaning on it for as much support, and was also getting some really nice rounding and lifting of his back. He was still behind the bit, but I felt like I was able to push him forward more to ask his hindquarters to step up under him so that he worked out of being over bent in the front. We worked for a while, and changed directions and the results stayed consistent. It felt like it was getting late, which turned out to be the case, so we quit for the day. I gathered my things and rode up the hill, though he did not want to track straight up the hill and ended up carrying me sideways with his shoulder popped out for a while. I know the hill is a struggle but I would have liked to at least get him straightened out again. We'll have to work on that. I walked down behind the barn, and then turned back again when he got a bit nervous heading into the parking lot (oh no! Things are different again!). Again, just need more practice.
I did manage to get him to let me off at the picnic table so I didn't have to slide down his sticky shoulder, which was a treat. I untacked him and discovered that he had pretty big dry spots behind his shoulders. I need to remember to ask Kirsten if that could be from him lifting into the saddle and what can be done about it to make sure that he is comfortable and the saddle isn't getting in his way.
Two sessions between a lesson must be a record!!
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11.04.17: 2B or not 2A