Today our lesson was mostly focused on getting Boomer to 'come down' earlier in the ride and cantering. We did lots of proper halt/walk transitions. By proper, I mean that we halt, I hold contact until he drops, then we walk off. If he inverts or comes up, we halt, etc. Our walk started just being a few baby steps and could gradually grow into a more forward walk. Karin has really started to ask for more forward from us now that Boomer understands how to give with the neck.
On to the canter, she really wanted me to focus on the actual time in the canter and not the transitions. So, I am to get him straight underneath me, then ask for the transition. In the canter, we just go and go and go until I say stop. While we are going, I sit up and "let him canter on and you stay back". I keep my lower leg ready to bump forward if he tries to slow or break gait. Once I feel that he is staying alert to my leg, I can start to 'feel' his mouth and follow him, seeking contact. I can pick up my inside rein and ask for a little inside bend, as he tends to counter bend.
His actual transitions were much better today and we spent a lot more time on the right lead. Karin said that he is pushing through his right shoulder as I set him up for the right lead, trying to block me and letting me know that he would prefer the left lead. So, I need to keep him straight through the transition. He got right in to the canter at every transition and I even felt him really lift up through his shoulders a few times!
Towards the end of the ride we worked on small figure eights, keeping steady connection through the change of rein. He did better from left to right, making me think that while his gaits are better to the left, his connection is better to the right. Karin thinks that will even out and already has some. After that we picked the trot back up and worked a little on the stretchy circle. Boomer tends to go nicely down and then root hard towards the end. He does this any time I give him extra rein. I am supposed to follow and give as he seeks contact down, then boot him if he jerks the reins. I was afraid it would discourage him from seeking down, but it didn't seem to at all. By the time we were walking out at the end he was pretty well done for the day and was walking with his nose almost in the dirt. He always stretches down when we halt before I dismount, but he decided to follow the loose rein and walk stretched all the way down today!
Karin commented that he really has nice gaits and is very athletic, but we just need to work on the roundness and submission.
For our homework, she wants me to spend a lot of time in the canter and not worry about doing a lot of transitions. She wants him forward and listening to my leg and then after that I can add the following hand contact and try to get him to give just a little without dropping to the trot. If he does drop down, I should get him straight between my legs and put him right back into the canter without waiting for the 'right opportunity'. Waiting until he is relaxed and 'ready' will take a long time at this point and encourage him to break gait. I am really glad I have a good trainer so that I don't have to make executive decisions like 'time in canter vs. number of transitions' because I don't know the best tactics at this point!