While the most pressing issue with our cantering has been the canter-trot transition, there have been other things we are working on as well. I tend to school the canter on a large circle using only about half of the arena. I find it helps me focus and keeps a good bend through the horse without confusing him on how to bend at the canter while traveling on a straight line. Generally, Boomer has a harder time to the right at the canter with his balance and tends to brace through his neck and back. Today I wanted to to 5 laps n each direction around the whole arena at large. To the left was very good. I could tell that he was working hard and trying to listen to my aids asking for softness through his neck and jaw. To the right he immediately shot his head up and braced against my reins. I took him on a circle and he just got post legged and stiff, careening around like a motorcycle with his head in the air. I tried asking him firmly with my inside rein for bend and he replied by ducking his head and shaking, not staying on the circle. I immediately shut him down and pulled his head to my right knee until he gave though the jaw and neck. Especially now that I am riding pregnant, I WILL NOT TOLERATE ANY ATTITUDE. After he gave and flexed softly, we walked off on the same circle. I asked him to give and drop lower at the walk. I exaggerated my gives, when he relaxed his jaw and neck, he got a few strides of long rein walk. After a minute or two of that, I picked him back up and asked for the canter again. This time, he stayed soft and low and was so uber light in the contact! We did one circle where he never raised his head up once and was giving to the bit and then I praised him like he was a genius and let him walk on a long rein for the rest of the ride.
This was the fastest 'learning curve' I have ever had with him in a situation like that. I was so pleased with how he thought through his options and reacted with exactly what I wanted. Part of me wonders if it is because of how firmly I reprimanded him and left NO room for error. I don't like to be harsh with him, but my situation has changed and I can't afford to make mistakes that put me or baby at risk. Perhaps he responds to one firm correction better than constant nagging. In the past, I have tended to 'nag' at him asking over and over for the right answer waiting for him to give eventually. Figuring that once he gives what I want, we can move on. However, never has that been so effective as the firmness I showed today. Very interesting situation to think about. I'm hoping the lesson is one that sticks with him and doesn't need to be repeated!