Monday I went to the barn for a morning ride. As usual, I had the place to myself. Steen and I worked outdoors, since he’s been relaxed again lately and I want to ride outside all I can while the weather holds. It was a good ride, though I am starting to demand a little more from Steen, now that he is clearly settling in and furnished with a good understanding of the basics. We warmed up with walking on the rail and cruising, and then upgraded to trotting on the rail. Steen is, and always has been, remarkably bad at this, and in earlier days trying to keep him close all the time (he just has certain areas he’d rather avoid) got him so worked up, it wasn’t worth it. But now that his bit fits, his teeth are smooth, and he’s not as anxious, I decided it’s high time for him to master this very basic proponent of riding. So, we did follow-the-rail at the trot, Clinton Anderson style. For a long time. I didn’t do anything at all except make him keep the trot up and pull his nose back to the rail when he veered off. We both improved during the course of this exercise. I learned not to micromanage him (trying to coax him back with a rein on the neck if he started to veer), but instead really concentrated on making the concept very clear by not interfering until he was definitively off the rail, and then gently but firmly pulling him back onto it and then once more letting him go on his own until he needed another correction.
Although significantly less fun than some of the other exercises we do, this was a good and necessary step for us. I noticed that the more I left it to Steen to choose the right course, the more he did-so, but found it surprisingly hard to let go of my neck-reining habit.
Finally, I decided he’d improved enough to stop, and then tried another exercise, post-to-post (choose a post across the arena, trot to it, and stop at the fence). Steen is also very bad at this, We persevered for a while, but didn’t make quite as much progress as I might have hoped. We finished up with some cruising and a long cool-down walk, and then a little more ground-work.
So, all in all things are still going well, but I think taking Steen to the next level is going to be as much an adjustment for me as him. But the good news is I am learning so much its a little unbelievable.