I finished work a little early, got kids snacked after school and then I headed out for an hour of horse time. I headed out and felt like kicking off with Cowboy. I had some ideas of things to try with him to cause him to be more supple. We started with a little ground work, but today I wanted to start upping the game. He can do more than I've been asking and he's ready.
I started by asking him to trot when I trot, canter when I canter. He seemed to have some fun doing that! I had him pretty close - maybe 10 ft away and he was engaged and ready to transition up or down as I asked. Then, we went for some trotting sideways on the rail. He got a little defensive as I asked him for more speed going sideways, but he quickly got the idea that I wasn't criticizing him - I just wanted him to offer more to the game. I actually got some cantering sideways! Then, we went for some circle game and I asked him to canter more laps. Until now, I've been happy and content with him simply cantering when I ask. Now, I took it to the next level by asking that he maintain the canter for longer. It was a different game and he was a little confused, but he caught on quickly and got the idea in no time. He's smart, smart, smart.
I was really happy with how he handled me asking for more, so it was time to ride. I hopped on (he's so great about mounting - stands still and strong every time) and we started with some simple follow the rail at the walk. I wanted to work on suppling him with bending a lot at the trot. I realized something today, though. He's a short horse! I can do that all day on Z, but Cowboy sees no purpose in moving fast or far. That's when it dawned on me - no wonder he hated cantering on line so much! He's a short horse! So, I had to pause and remember how to motivate a short horse so we could actually progress. I have some obstacles in my arena and I decided to bend around those and circle each one. After we circled 1 -3 of them, I'd stop him at one and give him a small treat. Ah HA! Now we're talking! He started actually getting into it and trying to figure out which obstacle was going to be the "treat spot". He got a little skip in his step and became a little more interested. I realized though, the best suppling is going to occur on the trail. That's where we'll go next - when I have enough time to dedicate to it.
I hopped off and asked for a little more sideways at the trot. I just think it's a good game for Cowboy and I want him thinking sideways and moving off the rail soon.
Then, I tied him off and grabbed Z. I need to ride her bareback - even if it's just 5 mins at a time. She's so sensitive and so annoyed if I ask wrong, we need a lot of practice. I took her into the round pen and asked for some walk/trot bareback. She got annoyed when I asked for forward to strongly. Whoops, sorry Z. But then we trotted for a bunch of laps in both directions easily and happily.
I finished off by spending just a few minutes asking her to bow. We haven't done that in a while and I had to remind her of the cue on her cannon bone. But she went back fairly easily and it's time to ask HER for more. She's comfortable at a certain place and I need to push her comfort zone. It's a hard trick for a RBI - trusting me is a hard thing for her.