I had a great lesson on Liam today. We worked on keeping him forward (from behind) into the bit so I could keep my hands quieter. We also focused on making sure his back was UP and round and swinging. I noticed that he likes to fake it sometimes when my attention is distracted, particularly around corners when he wants to resist a little bit the correct bend. To help this we did a little counter bend around the corners, followed by a little inside bend immediately after the corner, staying aware of keeping the outside shoulder moving around the corner with us and the inside hind stepping up under him. When I concentrated this way on ALL the body parts individually, instead of just thinking “bend right”, which gets me focused too much on where his head is, it helped tremendously to ride him from back to front, which kept his back up, which improved the connection to the bit, which improved the entire quality of the ride! Which of course makes sense, but like everything else, is easier said than done.
Project Jag is going well. Today was his last “take it real easy” day, and after lots of walking on a long rein, we did quite a bit of trotting each direction, doing simple laps around the arena and changing directions across the long diagonal. No tough corners or quick changes. After we trotted for a little while with light contact following his head where ever it wanted to go, I started gently asking him to look a little in the direction he was going around the corners (his preference is to keep his body absolutely perfectly straight, or even to look to the outside), and to my delight, he did it without protest! Towards the end of the ride, he also started to use his back a little on his own, and to relax his head into more of a hunter-ish frame than his giraffe frame. I was really pleased! He seems very willing and comfortable so far, so hopefully is back is feeling all better and he is realizing it.