13.05.19: Onward and Upward

Kirsten's trip started out a little rough with her missing her flight. Southwest had made some changes, and she got her times mixed up and arrived an hour later than she should have. She was able to get another flight in on Saturday morning, so with a little creativity we were able to reshuffle things. The rain held off most of the weekend and cooperated for the most part, but things were quite damp. Nancy and I were lucky that it had rained just enough to keep the arena from being dusty, which is always a good thing!
Storm looked like he had been damp and possibly rolled in the run-in shed, so gratefully the dirt came off easily! We got tacked up and headed to the arena. Nancy checked in with Kirsten and she set her up on the lunge line and then recommended that she work on the same task that I had been doing asking him to shift his weight while providing some resistance in the front. I got started and began asking Storm to shift forward from his hind end first before moving his front end. Kirsten came over to help us take it up a notch yet again. She really applied a lot more energy to asking him forward, which almost created a Piaffe look to him. His head went up, but she pointed out that it was the first step to him being able to lift his shoulders upward and backwards to completely shift his weight. Asking him for more effort really produced a bigger shift in his body, and I was glad that she helped me find the next level of request so that we didn't stagnate and not continue to make progress. Making it more challenging didn't make it any easier for me either! When he was light, he was super light, but as soon as he would start plowing downward again and losing his balance, he became very very heavy and much more challenging to stop. I worked with him until it felt like my arm was going to fall off between holding him back at the bit and asking him forward with the whip.
I was glad when it was time to climb up and ride though I knew I'd end up sore from that, too! I climbed up and was pleased to find that he was responding really well. It felt very good and I was immediately able to 'find the box' and feel him really pushing from behind. We were moving to the left, and he was well organized and it became easier and easier to help him maintain his balance. There were more and more good steps, and he was doing a lot of releasing in his top line, shaking his head and stretching. I was working really hard to maintain him, but it wasn't a struggle as it had been before, it was just simple work, continually rebalancing in which ever direction he slipped.
We finally changed direction (much to my muscle's relief!) and I realized quickly that we had been going in the easy direction, and now we were on the hard side! It took a lot more to help him find the same level of consistency as he had going the other way, but eventually when I got reorganized enough to help support him in that direction it smoothed out again. Kirsten commented that the size difference between Storm and Julius wasn't so noticeable  Storm appeared smaller and Julius appeared larger now that they were both working to a much higher of balance than previously. Every now and then they would have a trot to work out some of the balance, and then we would find walk again and return to our focus. It was too much for me to maintain all of the tricky things at the trot, that will come later.
He did fantastic, and I was relieved again when our lesson was over because my legs were shot. He was making me work super hard, but did a great job. I'm pleased with his progress from here, and am looking forward to continuing to push forward and find more balance and calmness.
When we finished, we took more photos for comparison  and then I headed up to the pasture to turn him out. They have switched up to starting the summer rotation, and so his herd was up in the front pastures, with the chute open to the rear pasture. Because of the archery event going on, we had to park trailers up in the first pasture, so I had to take him down the lane to the gate into the second pasture to turn him out. The trailers were parked in the first pasture with people around them, and as I was getting to the second gate, Nancy turned Julius out, and he was running through south to head out on the grass. Storm started to get nervous, and I managed to get him mostly quietly into the pasture. When Julius raced off, the horses in Storm's pasture, who were out in the back, noticed the commotion, and began to come up from the other side with nervous energy. It was all I could do at that point to get him to stand still with his head down long enough to get the halter off. I was concerned for my safety, and told him so. He was containing himself, but was really excited. I managed to get the halter off, and he spun and took off through the pasture just as the rest of the herd was running to come back through the chute. No collisions happened, but it was a little bit dicey for a moment!