Today's lesson was a huge improvement! Until now, Karin has really been trying to get Boomer to give and flex at the poll while staying forward. Now that he seems to be getting that at all gaits, we can start working on getting him to work off of my legs and lateral aids too!
One of the first things we worked on today was keeping him straight while walking or trotting along the long side of the arena. He tends to push through my inside leg and I feel like I am having to hold him up or else he will drift inside. Karin had me tip his nose inside and then boot him with my inside leg, then go back to neutral. After a few tries at that, he was much more responsive and was staying straighter. He has started getting lighter off of my legs in general, which I found a little surprising as I have been booting him for 'stepping out of line'. Karin has me boot him for pulling the reins out of my hands, leaning on my legs, and before I ask for an upward transition just to make sure that he is light & electric off of my legs. Surprisingly, this has made him more sensitive.
Next thing we worked on was leg yielding on a circle. She had me yield him around my inside leg, pointing his nose to the inside of the circle. She wanted his back legs really crossing over. He would resist this in one of two ways: tossing his head and coming above the bit or pushing his hip through my inside leg (pushing back against my ask). Karin had me walk him forward and on the bit whenever he would resist, then ask again. He did very well and Karin commented that she could see haunches in AND half pass in there! That is so cool to think that he is capable of such complex moves, but with how flexible and athletic he is- I believe it!
After this we worked on the canter. He is doing amazingly well with the canter and I really have no complaints! He is really trying hard and we even did a few canter-trot-canter transitions in a row and he didn't get anxious or excited at all! He even had a number of really nice down transitions where he stayed on the bit and really sat down on his haunches! All of this praise is not to say that there were no issues. He did start to resist when he got tired and he did that by pushing through my inside leg. I found it difficult to push him out on a larger circle and he kept falling in. I tried giving him a few kicks with my inside leg and he responded by trying to break to the trot, then when I kicked him again to stay in the canter he gave a little buck. Karin got a lunge whip and used that to help me push him out and keep him going and that really helped. She didn't have to do anything with the lunge whip except hold it like she was lunging him and he shaped right up.
Something interesting we worked on was a little more 'head control'. I can't believe we have made such a 180* turn after only 2 months. Boomer started out so high headed, resistant, and inverted that we did everything we could to encourage him to soften and round his topline. Now, he goes naturally to this rounded frame and offers to stretch down frequently. At first, we allowed him to stretch whenever he wanted but now we are starting to control that a little more. I am supposed to bump the outside rein when he tries to stretch without 'permission'. Now that I have so much more control of his head and can essentially 'put' his head anywhere I want by lengthening or shortening my reins, we have introduced the 'show frame', which is a more working level. Karin wants me to be able to have him longer to warm up, deeper if I need control, and have this 'show frame' for working gaits.
As I was cooling him out we talked a little bit about where this was all going. Karin was really excited today because she felt like we can start 'having fun' with him. Now that he is forward and giving in the poll and jaw we can start asking more of him and doing lateral work. This ties in directly to some of the issues we had today. Because he has now willingly 'given' his topline, the next way he has of expressing himself when something gets tough is to swing out his hips and push against my leg. So, with introducing more lateral work, we will get him off of my legs and I will be able to control him better through my legs.
I am so amazed with this whole process. I am starting to slowly see how great Karin is for us. She is really a great teacher. She seems to be introducing this all in such a connected way. First, she fixed the inverted, hollow topline by getting him to give at the poll, now she introduces lateral work to gain control of the hips. But it is all so connected. Before, Boomer resisted by throwing his head and bracing against the bit. Now that he has more acceptance of the bit, he resists by pushing through my legs. It amazes me that Karin 'saw this coming' from far enough away that she knows just when to introduce concepts. This is all so exciting to me and it really feels awesome to ride Boomer like this. I can't describe how, exactly, it is different but I feel like today he started giving me a place to sit. I was able to sit up straighter and lift my hands and really push with my legs. I didn't have to struggle to post and I felt like we were really 'moving'. I'm sure that doesn't make sense, but there was just something incredible about or ride today. He felt so energetic and through, like he was really using his back. It was a pleasure to ride. I am almost disappointed that we will have to miss a few lessons when Boomer is having a week or two off after our endurance ride!