Our first day back working with the trainer was a hard one. In our lesson, the walk and trot work was going very nicely. We did lots of transition work until his back was round and he was softly carrying the bit. Then we started the canter to the right, which is the harder direction. It wasn’t too bad. Then we reversed and tried to canter left, which opened a big can of worms. He picked it up ok, but then was falling in the circle and I couldn’t get him to move out on a bigger circle, which has been a problem in the past. We went back to the trot, and I still couldn’t move his back end over (sounding familiar yet?). Then we went back to the walk, and his haunches still wouldn’t move over. Then we went almost to a halt and tried to do a turn on the forehand, and still the haunches didn’t move.
So she handed me a dressage whip, and sure enough, a little tap tap tap on his hip and his haunches moved over. So we did lots and lots of turn on the forehand, both directions. Then we went back to walk and his head was up in the air, which is what has happened in the past when I’ve carried a whip. She wasn’t too worried about it and told me to move to trot and let him settle into the bridle in the trot, so we moved forward. He raced around with his head in the air. Next she said to practice inside bend and then outside bend, then inside bend, then outside bend. That too wasn’t working, his mouth gaped open and he pulled and twisted and resisted. She went back in the tack room and found a flash nose band to add to my bridle. He wasn’t crazy about it, but it did help.
I got a decent trot going and he stayed steady in soft contact so we went back to canter and he stayed relatively soft in my hands, but went speedy and unyielding to any half halts or bending I attempted. We went back to our head to the wall counter bend exercise, but he kept chugging along. His canter was more polite than before we started training, he wasn’t hanging on my hands and racing off, but it was his off balance lateral canter that he just didn’t feel inspired to let me help with. So we went around, head to the wall, again and again and again. She kept telling me just keep riding, he’ll figure it out. Around and around. Finally she told me to drop the whip, which helped some maybe, but he didn’t relax, so we kept going and going until I thought I was going to collapse.
Finally he gave me a few strides where he straightened out and settled into a regular 3 beat canter. I let him walk and we both took a break. We were both dripping sweat and thankful to be done, until she said gather up the reins and one more time.
“Nice and easy Liam, please do it slow,” I whispered as we went back to trot. This time was better! He cantered off, counter bend and straighten, counter bend and straighten. We stayed straight down the long side until he lost his three beat rhythm, then went back to counter bend, then straight again. Much much better! Finally, we were done with our lesson and ready to hit the wash racks.