The summer heat has definitely taken it's toll on the energy of all the horses, especially Gabe, it seems.
You'd never guess he was an off-the-track five-year-old Thoroughbred by his behavior under saddle. He can sure be lazy, lazy, lazy. I rode last night and had to get after him a few times to keep moving instead of dribbling into a Western pleasure horse trot with his nose to the ground.
I started our session on the ground working on yielding to pressure, moving his body away from first the pressure of my closed fist, then the palm, then my fingertips, finally, the tickle of my dressage whip, all on the ground. He's getting it. Slowly but surely it's making sense to him. You can almost see the little light bulb above his head growing brighter with each little bit of understanding.
I needed to really pump up his energy because he was dragging butt. Big time. He took long, low and slow to a whole new level of plod-along. Now, I KNOW this horse has energy and FORWARD when he wants. He just didn't want to. I don't blame him, it was kinda hot and the horses haven't had much relief from the heat this summer.
But I needed him to move forward to get some of the work done I wanted to get done. Trot poles are a great way to get him up and forward and really moving, so we went over those a few times and I could feel him starting to perk up.
A few leg yields to the rail down the long side were acceptable considering he's just starting to "get it." I try never to "over-drill" in any one thing. Keep their minds active and in the game and you have a much better chance of actually getting through those skulls without boring the snot out of them.
Then, I threw in a twist. So far I've been pretty content to let him trot at his own tempo and pace as long as he keeps moving forward without dribbling into a walk. Last night, I pushed him hard into an extended trot down the long side, then slowed into a more collected trot around the corners. He wasn't quite sure what to think at first but offered when I asked...and I took it. A few good extended trots and he was feeling more powerful and energetic again. He, amazingly, rounded into the bridle and I could feel his back lift and his hind end tuck under to work that trot. And work it he did. His extended trot, while no where near show arena ready, was like flying. All that power at my fingertips, literally, is so freakin' exhilarating in so many way. Flying. That's what we were doing, we were soaring together in delightful harmony.
I am kind of surprised at how adjustable he is at this stage. I slow and lower my posting, he slows with me, matching me. I speed it up a bit and make it bigger, he matches me stride for stride. This isn't him rushing around with his head in the air just going faster and faster and faster with short, fast little strides. The tempo remained nearly the same, it was just BIGGER. Those who have ridden dressage school-masters know what I mean.
And we cantered. Have I mentioned I love his canter? Pretty sure I have...a few times. The most amazing, up, powerful, forward, comfortable canter I have ever ridden. And no giraffe neck with a horrible hollow back! He actually lifts and rounds like he's supposed to. Delightful. I could ride it all day long! We did a few up and down transitions between the trot and canter and he's really starting to understand what I'm asking and paying attention to me, those ears flicking back and forth constantly, waiting and asking what to do next.
Tonight will be a relaxing ride, I believe. We'll see how he's feeling, but I see a few trails through the woods in our future.