I had emailed my mentor from afar late last week and asked what I need to work on with Kat. It is like lessons by proxy, but it works for now. A friend of mine had commented on Kat getting his tongue over the bit. "He got his tongue over the bit, he can get it back under it. Sometimes they are just looking for release."
Which makes sense since I know I can tend to hold onto him at times when I need to let him go. I am used to riding with contact. So I know needed to work on letting him go and I needed to work on softening, he was refusing to give to the left... These aren't things that will take a long time to fix or work on so I asked what else I should do with Kat?
"Circles, serpentines, up & down transitions, ENGAGEMENT and several other things I probably forgot to mention. Focus on dressage, it is important!" All of which are softening and engagement excersises. And since there was water- why not work IN it?
As much as I dislike draw reins, they can be useful at times. I attached the shorter lines for ground driving and used my lunge line as a draw rein. The draw rein is held a touch looser than the direct rein. It is merely a backup and hardly used. I ended up switching it over to the right side for a little bit too before taking it off to concentrate on other work. We did our up & downs, we did a lot of circles and since we were working in a smaller area, the serpentines weren't really an option.
I have to say though, Kat LOOKED every bit of a big horse, moving perfectly on a semi loose rein and ROCKIN' IT. He was also trotting through the water with no hesitation at all. In fact- he was Plowing into and through the water like it was nobody's business. He looked like this horse only with his usual Katman markings and he was right on the vertical-
(photo is from Maverick Sporthorses and is a Holsteiner mare they have named Gradina. I think she is gorgeous and a lovely mover!)
Those up & downs? They help with the engagement of the rear end, lighten the front end and can help make a horse that is built slightly downhill, appear to travel a bit more uphill. The up & downs worked so well in fact, that a couple of times I had Kat trotting and asked for a stop. He planted his ass and stopped so hard he slid a good 3-5 feet like a reiner. Then he looked at me like "Holy Crap! Did you see me do that? That was COOL!" It was cool, but I think it would be heavily frowned upon in the dressage ring.
Last night I went out to work him again. I have kept the old crappy harness in the trailer for long lining and so I can work him without lugging the big box with the good harness back and forth. I figured I would just use it again and put Kat to the cart with it. We did it before the good harness, what's one last hurrah? Man is that thing CRAP!
I was going to toss it once we got the new harness, but I was advised to hang onto it. It is good for getting a horse (small pony) started without trashing your good harness. Which makes sense and all, but after last night- I will not be using it to put anything to a cart again. I had to make a few adjustments, which is not a big deal, but it was not as good as using the new harness, which I have had a little over a year now. I will keep it, but the most use it will see is the bridle and harness saddle for long line and ground driving work.
We strarted out in the back pasture and did a few circles and I let Kat loosen up at the walk. We went both directions and headed out into the big pasture with the cows. They were up front so we had the back section to ourselves. I pushed him into a trot and we did some circles, a few serpentines and then a few up and downs. I kept trying to focus on my hands and remember to let him go. Trust him and let him do the work. Old habits can be hard to break and it's not like you can just push the 'Reset' button on some things.
After doing a couple of trot/stop/trot/stop sets, I stopped Kat and he was fidgety. He didn't want to stop and he didn't want to stand still. I tried backing him up a couple of steps and found out our Reverse gear failed. The harness didn't help and rather than screw with it and make an issue out of backing up, I let him walk forward. Our up & downs now had walking mixed in a bit more to relax my pony before he became hot. The cows migrated to the west corner of the field and we worked in the east end.
As we finished up I let Kat play and have some fun. He hadn't shown any soreness in his work so I pushed him for a little more. I began kissing to him and we picked up a very fast trot. We were circling to the right and I kept kissing to him urging him on. Finally he picked up a canter, but only held it for a few strides. All along I have scolded him for cantering with the cart. Now I praised him.
He dropped back to a trot, but soon picked up a canter again, right lead and all, head up and elevated, the shafts seemed to bounce up and down with him each stride, but he cantered on. We made about one lap around like that and he eased down to a swift trot. Since we did it going to the right, now we had to do it going to the left. We changed directions and this time it was a little easier to get him into the canter since he understood that I was asking for it. A few kisses each stride and he picked up the left lead and cantered on. The shafts bounced up and down, I let him know what a good boy he is and we made a lap and a half around before we eased back down to a trot, then a walk and finished up there. He seemed to enjoy it, but he was getting tired.
Now that he knows when I want him to canter, how I will ask for it, we can throw out the milk bottles, make up a course and play some more. He will probably get a bit too excited about that.