Eli and I had a flat work lesson on Saturday instead of jumping. We started with just a very lazy trot, as Eli likes to do, and I let him because he is 15 and needs a little bit of time to get “loose.” After a couple of laps, we got to the actual trot work. Once Eli is using his hind end, the gait feels very, very different. The steps become bigger and slower if I am sending the right signals, and we worked on that during the first part of the lesson. Stuff like this comes pretty naturally to Eli, or at least it seems to — perhaps he is a quick study?
Next we worked at the canter; again, collecting it a bit and asking for that push from behind. He prefers a light seat especially for this, so I try to distribute the contact toward my inner thigh, so I am not just plopping around on Eli’s back. Closing the outside thigh especially helps through the turns, as does keeping my inside rein/hand forward and not hanging on the bit. Eli is very accepting of the lower leg now, so no problem there.
Then on to the difficult part: collecting the trot after cantering. After cantering Eli thinks “jumps” or “walk on long rein” and I am working on teaching him to keep an open mind about what might happen after we canter. Eli fusses a bit in the bridle over this, and his shoulders tend to drop, so this is going to be something we need to work on frequently, although maybe not every day. And of course we wouldn’t work on it and drill it for ever on end. If he has a few steps of what we are going for, at this point he gets a walk break. I can gradually add to the workload along these lines. This is not something I have ever really asked him to do, and my guess would be he has never been asked to do this in his life. He has already shown some understanding of it, but where we falter is patience. For either of us. My trainer emphasized I have to be the patient one and stay consistent in what I am asking until he does it.
This week, Eli will have time off because he has a routine maintenance appointment on Tuesday and I suspect the first day I will be able to ride him based on veterinary advice and my schedule will be Saturday. Which is fine because the forecast is ridiculous right now!