I got up this morning and was relieved to have no pain. A little tight in the lower back, but that's not a surprise. I headed to my lesson with a back brace on to see how I ride with that. I also got to debut Theo's new boots.
Yes, they are glittery. We found them at a tack shop during an adult ladies outing. When I saw that they had front, back, AND bell boots that matched a saddle pad I have and were in his size? They had to come home with me.
Trainer A was . . . well, she's gotten used to me at this point. There were some sighs, but I've done worse. She still hates my hearts saddle pad more.
My lesson went well. I definitely struggle with following in the back brace, so I'm hoping it's not something I need going forward. I posted for most of this lesson, but did sit the canter. I was guarding myself too much to sit the trot well and we don't want to block his forward. I only sat for the lateral stuff where I just can't freaking manage all those body parts without my bum in the saddle.
With his hocks straightened out, we're full steam ahead on building a light, uphill canter with self carriage. Today we started with shoulder in on the quarter line at the trot, making sure that he kept the forward while wrapping around my inside leg. He likes to suck back, but he's getting the idea that he can stretch in the movement. It's just a matter of confidence.
Then we swapped to cantering. Pick up the canter, cut across the diagonal so we are counter cantering, then leg yield off the wall to the quarter line. Swap leads, repeat. Poor Theo, there was smoke coming out of his ears. This is going to be our fight this winter. We do things in walk and trot. Canter? We just canter, we don't actually do things. He almost tripped over his own feet when he realized I wanted him to give me a real, leg crossing leg yield while cantering. And all the counter canter work. His counter canter has gotten very steady and he held it without any real resistance, so that's a big victory. We don't do square turns yet, but we can go all around the ring without him inverting or trying to break. He's comfortable with it and starting to push into the land of confirmed.
He was stressed enough with this new, confusing exercise that we rewarded heavily. It was straight up clicker training with a big release and a cookie when he stepped off the wall without bracing or dramatics. It was walk to canter, canter the diagonal, a neck scritch for holding the counter canter on the short side, the leg yield on the long side, verbal click followed by halting for a treat. A couple iterations of that and he was stepping off with no protests. Each pass I'd ask for a couple more steps until we were making it to the quarter line. I'll probably do one more session of rewarding every pass before I start to wean him off. It's mentally challenging for him right now and I want him to stay light and positive about it. It's not difficult physically, but he didn't expect it.
I think we'll be doing canter leg yields for awhile as we start getting the shoulder in and half pass at the canter started. He needs to figure out that laterals are a thing at all three gaits. It will also help us build a real collected canter without me getting in his face. He'll sit down because it's the only way to free up his front end and go sideways. Even our limited work today got his shoulders up more as he realized he had to do more than canter in a straight line. He also had to halt promptly for those cookies.
Salon Pas patch is on my tight lower back but no sign of the nerve pain or pulled muscle, so I'm mentally feeling better. Tomorrow his adult rider will have her flat lesson on him and I'll be resting my back. She's learning about adjusting Theo and managing his tendency to fake a contact while bracing on the underside of his neck, so he'll be doing a lot of long and low while she learns what it feels like when he lifts his topline. Gradually she'll learn how to bring him up without losing that lift.
Sunday is my half marathon. Bib pick up is today.
AHHHHHHHHHHH. *inhale* AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.
I might be a bit nervous about that.
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