Gatsby had an unfortunately light week last week, I only got to ride twice:( So I knew he would be crazy when I went out yesterday because he had only been turned out 3 out of the last 4 days (not Sunday because it rained). However, I decided to brave the crazy and was determined to have a productive dressage ride regardless. Looking back, I think I should always get on with that mindset because we had a FANTASTIC session.
I was down to business right from the start, beginning with leg yields, shoulder in, and haunches in at the walk to get him supple and focused. When I picked up the trot I sat for a bit and really focused on my position which I think ended up helping set the tone for our whole ride. We did a few lengthenings and leg yields but I was mostly focused on keeping him supple, reaching into the contact, and listening to me!.
Our canter work is where the issues finally started to show up (I knew they would at some point). He was pretty good working on the circle with only a few spooks that were easily and quickly corrected. However, moving off of the circle was a whole 'nother story. He stayed nice and calm for all of 5 seconds and then his head shot up, his stride got choppy and before I could even correct him, he was trotting completely unorganized. NOT OKAY. My response to this was to stop him, immediately, and have him rein back until he came back to me. I know this isn't a perfect solution and I don't want him to learn rein back as a punishment but, it did work wonderfully after 2-3 times and he was much more focused and attentive to what I was asking for. We actually eventually had some really lovely canter lengthenings that I was really happy with. What I realized is that I normally ride these too much from the leg and that's why I tend to lose the connection. Yesterday, as I mentioned, I was really focused on my position and I rode the lengthenings from my seat and he stayed very relaxed and did not throw away the connection.
I ended our ride with some counter-canter work. I know this is not something he really needs to know at this time but I think it is really helpful in getting him to engage his hind end at the canter and also to keep him attentive as it really is hard work and he does need to be listening to my every cue to succeed. Our first few attempts were sloppy and he either broke to the trot or changed leads shortly after crossing the diagonal. After that though, he seemed to really "get it" and we had some really nice serpentines.
I let him finish with a nice long stretchy trot and a long walk around the property. At this point, I am thrilled with my horse and I just hope we can keep up the good work for Woodside!