...and surprisingly, his canter has been the best it has ever been... more on that in a second.
So, back story...we moved to a new barn. Not going to get into the "why", but we're at a new place. It is a much bigger establishment - on 100 acres, with super huge arenas - both indoor and out. It also has 2 covered round pens, 60+ft in diameter. But with that also has many more horses, boarders, and trainers. I kind of cringed at the thought of having to share space with so many people. As it turns out, however, I am one in a very small handful that goes to ride after work. We've been there for a week and a half now, and I've ridden about 10 times in the arena, and I've been alone each time.
I've been taking advantage of the larger space to do lots of canter work with Ben. Ben, God love him, is a giant quitter - like all the time. I am constantly having to keep on him to keep going, and it has been a challenge. It isn't so much having to nag with the leg anymore, but it is more like if I even think about transitioning down, he'll break. I am constantly having to remind him to keep gait - whether it be trot or canter, or walk even. He's just lazy and will do the least expected of him at all times.
So the last few rides I've been making him own up to it a bit more. I ask him for canter and get up off his back in a half seat. And we go- for laps, breaking it up in circles and doing simple changes across the diagonal. Maybe its the former jumper rider in me, but its much easier for me to keep going like this, on a lazy horse. I'm not trying to hold him together, he's got to figure it out on his own, with just a bit of assistance from me.
Low and behold, both his transitions and quality have gotten MUCH better. His balance in the canter has changed dramatically, and yesterday, my last few canter sets yielded a very balanced, cadenced canter that felt SLOW, but uphill- something I have been yearning for with him.
Another reason for the canter work is that his trot has gone to crap. He is just SO fussy with his head and neck at the trot, and has a hard time loosening his back and getting a nice soft, balanced trot. I get a better, more rideable, connected trot once I canter, but man it has been rough going. His transitions to trot suck (the pace steps/bunny hop have re-entered our lives). I can't help but wonder if there is a physical reason for it, or if its a training issue. This started back in the summer at our last couple of shows. I was doing body work for him, and admittedly, I've sucked with keeping up at the stretches and such. I need to get back to that regimen.
I've also been toying with going bitless temporarily. Ben is the WORST when it comes to being playful with his bit. And it is all-consuming. He chomps and fusses and chomps and fusses - doesnt seem to matter what type of bit he's got on - size, shape, ring type, metal type- if its in his mouth he's going to play with it - from the second he is bridled and onward. Flash, drop, whatever - nothing stops him. I'm tempted to try more as an experiment just to see if anything changes going bitless. It might be a good test, and it might get us over this hurdle.