12.08.12: Record Ride

I believe I have established a record: I have ridden every Saturday since our last lesson in July, and this weekend even rode twice! That almost NEVER happens!
We had two stellar rides, he has been working so hard for me. He is very pleasant working, and has been a joy to be around. He may still be a little lethargic from the heat, but he has worked hard, and I am very appreciative of that.
Saturday morning started having to fetch him from the 'back 40' since the herd was hanging out under the mulberry tree in the back pasture through the chute. He only asked to go back once, and then minded me all the way up, including when two of the mares bolted through the chute to come with him. I took him out the side gate being concerned that the rest of the herd would mosey after us, and then come running through. He was level headed all the way up and quite willing. It wasn't too hot, so I tacked up and we headed down to the arena. I adjusted the stirrups and climbed up on the fence and asked him to get on, and he politely brought me the saddle. I climbed up and got settled in before asking him to move off and setting into work. We headed to the left to begin with and he got right down to business. I concentrated on maintaining the focus of shifting up and back and so long as I kept that concept clear in my mind he moved very well. He still struggles getting behind the bit a little, but simply encouraging him forward with a little leg helps to correct the issue. We worked patiently for a long time simply working for consistency and ease of movement. He was doing well enough that we worked a little bit on trotting, being sure to not ask for the trot unless he was really in the correct posture to push forward. He had to do his usual trot for a little while and then stop to blow out the carbon before we could pick up the trot again. Once he finished his cough and snort we picked the trot up again and worked for a few laps lightly. Taking the thought of up and back into the trot was a bigger challenge to maintain, but he and I both faded in and out of it as he worked. There were moments when he was able to be light as a feather and his gait smoothed out and was gentle and easy to post to. After a few transitions we settled back to the walk for a while using the improved balance from the trot to stay organized longer with more ease in the walk. 
We changed directions and began working to the right, and struggled a little more in that direction. It took longer to get organized and maintain the ease of motion, but we were able to build up to almost a lap at a time maintaining good balance and lightness. Again we worked on trot transitions and we still struggle plowing down into the walk again rather than maintaining the weight to the hindquarters. That will be a hot topic in our next lesson I am sure. We worked between transitions for a while and on simply walking with good balance and posture. We switched to doing figure 8's for a while working on making nice balanced changes of direction through the center of the circle. He is getting more and more consistent being able to maintain balance on the tighter patterns. It will take us a long time before he is able to maintain it effortlessly, I can still feel that he gets into the pattern and gets stuck there, and when you switch to the figure 8, he is surprised by the tighter turn. We called it quits for the day and I was pleased to find that he was pretty wet under the saddle and girth. I gave him a good hose off and put him in the stall under the fan for the day.
Sunday morning I got up and saw that they were up by the gate before I was ready. I threw on some boots and headed out to grab him before they changed their minds and headed to the back side of nowhere again. I put him in the stall and headed back to the house to finish breakfast and get ready. I was slower getting started than I wanted, but the morning was really comfortable, so I wasn't too worried. We tacked up, and he was very polite while I got everything ready. We headed to the arena and I climbed aboard. He felt as good as the day before, and so we set to work finding our focus of up and back and shifting the weight backwards. He was doing very well so I spent more time working on the trot, and was glad to find a little more consistency within the gait. It takes a lot more work for me to maintain it, and the corrections still need to be bigger because I am not able to work as quickly or effectively at the faster speed, but we were able to spend a nice amount of time really working on it which is the only way to really improve. I have to suffer through him finding his balance, and he has to suffer through me figuring out how to correct his balance! 
We took a break from trotting and worked on some figure 8's, even working on a pattern of double figure 8's through the arena so that there was a little more randomness to the long curves versus the short curves and changes of direction. We were interrupted by lessons coming through, so we weren't able to really draw the pattern in the damp sand as much as I hoped, but it was good practice and we'll have to do more of that at another time. We finished up when some friends arrived to hang out for the day, and so I took him up to hose him off and put him in the stall for the day. I finally had all the complete parts for the misting system, so we got that installed so that his stall can be cooled off even more in the event it is really hot. That, of course, means that the forecast for the upcoming week is only in the mid-80's!
Late in the evening we were hanging out with the horses and just joking around and I mentioned vaulting onto the horses, and someone didn't understand what that meant, so I checked in with Storm to make sure that he was going to be steady for me, and then put a hand on his mane in front of his whithers stepped back, took two steps forward and swung, and actually managed to make it all the way up on his back. It wasn't pretty, but it was accomplished! I was quite surprised myself how effortless it was. I hugged Storm in thanks and scratched him for a bit while I sat up there. I took a little bit of time to rub on him all over, swinging my legs down his sides and up over his butt just for the heck of it since he didn't have a saddle on and only the bareback pad. When I decided I should get down, I scootched back and slid right off of his rump, and he never twitched an ear. I gave him a really good scratch before I turned him out for the evening.
Our next lesson will be next Sunday. A record four rides since my last lesson has me excited for this lesson. I am praying for cool weather so that we will be able to work hard for our two hour ride.