It is hard to believe that I was driving in 4x4 in Tulsa this morning because of the icy roads when the weather here at home, just an hour north, is sitting right at 59 degrees and sunny! I rode Boomer today and things were good. Though, I think he gets bored doing arena work. I let him wander on a free rein after one of our exercises and he walked to the out gate and put his head over it. I could practically hear him begging "Please, lets go for a trail ride". I told him that we could work on side passing to the gate instead.
Overall, he is improving. We started with a loose rein walk to warm up. Then we did some walking leg yields and I was impressed at how responsive he is. He isn't quite in a straight line, but he is close. We also did trotting leg yields and once to the left he actually straightened up and was reaching under himself! It was awesome! I could really feel a difference. I let him walk on a loose rein and petted him, but I'm not sure he made the connection. His yields are getting better, he can easily go from corner to corner(I guess that would be 45*?), sometimes the angles get even deeper, which is encouraging.
We worked on the turns on haunches again. He still has a hard time with that. Though he did have a few good steps. His turns on the forehand are much easier for him. Though, I really want him to get good at coming up off of his forehand, and turn on the haunches is great for that. So, we will keep working on that. I also introduced the side pass, which isn't dressage-y, but will help us open gates in the future. Wouldn't you know, he caught right on!
We worked more on walk/halt half-halt circles. He is fine at that. He also is getting the idea of moving faster without me using my voice, just legs. Though I am not sure how to differentiate that I want a faster walk versus if I want a trot. He seems to get really pissy if I apply any leg at all. Once he even went as far as to stop and toss his head in addition to his usual ear pinning. I think he is lazy and is irritated when I 'bother' him. So, I may start carrying a crop to make sure he knows I mean business.
We worked on keeping impulsion at the trot. I would squeeze him forward and then leave him alone with my legs until he slowed down, then I would squeeze him foreward again. Piaffe Dreams describes it like pushing off on a skateboard. You only use your leg when you start slowing down. I'm not sure Boomer made the connection. I know he is smart, but sometimes I wonder if he catches on to patterns.
Another thing I figured out (half-way) is his ear pinning when I mount/dismount. Today I led him up to the paddock gate to climb on. No ear pinning. So, that one was a real sign of discomfort, not just a learned behavior. Ear pinning when I dismount is totally a learned behavior. Because he makes the same face when I jump up and down next to him. So, thats what I did. I jumped until he put his ears forward, then I rubbed his neck. I started counting how many jumps I made until he put his ears forward. It went something like this: 24, 19, 12, 16, 12, 9, 9, 9, 4, 6. Then I quit and gave him some love. More next time, but my legs were some from an hour long ride and couldn't jump anymore!
On another note, I am changing his food a little. Not what I am feeding, but the amount. Right now, he is getting 50/50 Ultium/Horseman's Edge. I think it gives him just the right amount of energy. He doesn't seem to have any excess energy and doesn't act unmanageable or stupid. Which is great when he is a poop machine and not much else. But, as I start riding him 2-4 times a week for 30-60 minutes at a time he NEEDS excess energy. So, I am giving him 5 cups of the 50/50 and one cup of pure Ultium. If that doesn't help in a week, I'll do 4 cups 50/50 and 2 cups Ultium. Which is equal to 2 cups Horseman's Edge and 4 cups Ultium. If that still isn't enough come spring, I may increase the actual amount of food he is eating by a cup.