We worked on getting a forward trot right from the start, which I had to work for but I got. We worked on straightness down the long sides, down the quarter line, and all the way across the diagonals of the ring, and then we did some circles spiraling inward and outward and worked on holding the bend while moving away from my inside leg or inward off my outside leg. Not surprisingly, the hardest thing for him to do in that exercise is tracking left, moving inward off my right leg, because it requires him to balance off his right hind and keep his haunches to the inside. We also did a couple of haunches-in in each direction, and they were so good that I didn't ask for more than a few steps each time. Progress!
We also worked on a lot of trot-walk transitions. They started off embarrassingly disorganized and weak, but I just kept doing them, and tried to be as consistent as possible in my aids. That seems to be the ticket: repetition and consistency. It's like I just keep asking the same question the same way and he finally gives me the right answer. They still weren't perfect, but they improved quite a bit. Perfection is probably too lofty a goal for the moment. Improvement is great.
Once I got two trot-walk transitions that I liked, I went right up into my right lead canter. On the plus side, the walk-canter transitions (which I've been working on a lot lately) were excellent tonight. He stayed round through his back, and pushed off from behind instead of inverting and pulling himself into the canter. I still struggled a little with getting the canter both forward and balanced. It's much easier to balance on a smaller canter, but then he's not really working as hard from behind. What I struggle with is sending him forward and keeping it balanced, rather than forward and strung out and on his forehand. We had moments that were better, mostly on a circle, but down the long sides of the ring he has a tendency to get strung out when I send him forward, which doesn't accomplish the goal of hind end engagement. So, the canter is still a work in progress.
After my ride I had a good long grooming session with him. I've been working hard on keeping his coat shiny this summer, in several ways. He's getting SmartShine, which I've been really impressed with. I've tried giving him oil, and used to have him on Grand Complete, but neither of these had the same results that I'm seeing with SmartShine. I also spray him about every other day with Shapley's M-T-G, and then put some serious elbow-grease into rubbing that in with a clean towel. M-T-G is one of my very favorite grooming tools. It's great for keeping his coat conditioned and free of dry flakey skin, and works really well at clearing up scurf or grunge or fungus or whatever you like to call it. It has even made his tail thicker! Of course, nothing keeps a coat shiny and healthy like lots and lots of currying. I have several different curry combs that I use depending on the length of his coat and how much he is shedding, and try to curry both before and after I ride, for as long as possible.
I tried one more time tonight to get a decent photo of him. In case you were wondering, I was actually trying to take a nice picture of him during the photo shoot in my last post. Massive fail. Tonight, I kept the flash off, switched to sepia (who knew the camera phone was so fancy?), and somehow he actually managed to strike a pretty cute pose or two.
A little less llama-like, right?
Tucker and Griffin