Yes as usual lil' mister Smartypants got to go first. He did quite well on-line today and remained LB for the most part throughout all our patterns: spiraling in and out at the trot with the Circle game, migrating during the Circle game, transitions downwards and upwards, Figure-8 and Weave.
By the time Link got his turn in the arena, we had visitors! Two individuals came in to longe one horse at a time; one seemed your usual english horse while the other was quite young, ie. just being started likely. For my perspective on side reins (which were used on both horses, check out my other blog, The Perfect Horse). Both horses were quite uptight and so had quite the effect on Link. I took it quite slow with him and allowed him to stop often and check out these new horses, who were tearing around their 40' circles at their end of the arena (at one point the youngest horse got loose). At first he was quite RB, tearing around me and threatening several times to kick; he had a lot of pent-up energy and was keen on expressing said energy in the form of a rodeo bronc. I had to take a couple deep breaths, allow him to do so, and just continue patiently until we got in our Circle game and its extensions to a satisfactory level (which was actually ultimately a pretty damn good level!). I was quite positive I wouldn't be able to turn him "off" and get him back tuned in to me, but found that was not the case whatsoever! It took a good 15 minutes probably but soon he was LB and focused on me (for the most part, those horses were pretty distracting at times haha). He further impressed me by performing both the Figure-8 and Weave at the trot and with little direction (eventually) with only a few minor RB moments and missed cones or barrels!! He is definitely picking up a lot of confidence in the patterns. All in all he did excellent, so we moved onto some under-saddle work.
By the time we arrived at the under-saddle work the other two individuals had left the arena area but were still in the barn. Also, Sonny was gone by this point so it took a few minutes before Link was no longer looking for his buddy. Link was focused and attentive for the most part, but was only responsive to my requests if it suited him. In other words, if I asked with a little leg pressure and turning of my body to turn, he would, but only provided it was headed towards the other horses. If I asked him to walk in the opposite direction, I'd have to inject a bit of rein in with my request. For the most part though he was very good, even backing up very softly. He still isn't all that keen on the back-up and so will toss his head but as long as I am quiet and passively persistent he comes around quite nicely with a soft response. Afterwards we worked on his transitions; his jog was fantastic however he kept picking up speed as he gradually transferred over from LB to RB. This was mostly due to the fact that by that time the other horses and their owners had left the barn, as had Sonny of course (earlier)...so Link was left to his own devices with no herd-protection (from his perspective, anyway!). Eventually I allowed him to move up into an extended trot (he needed to stretch those shoulder muscles anyways), which he did for a bit before picking up the canter. I was just about to slow him back down to a trot however his canter was the softest, smoothest, and slowest it has ever been!! With a few half-halts here and there (me meanwhile poised to pounce like the predator I am to stop him should he move up into a gallop - bad habit!! I need to remind myself to just relax and move with the flow sometimes) he remained at the slower pace however the second time around I could feel him coiling and preparing for a buck as well as become increasingly RB, so I stopped him and stepped off right then and there. It's too bad we had to end the session there, but I could feel him becoming increasingly RB and so did not feel it safe for me to be up there any longer. Obviously with the narrowly-adverted-buck (he'd just bounced a little in preparation for the big buck) I no longer had his permission to be up there either!! I was rather disappointed however we did still make a lot of progress that day and it was not worth it to push the issue and possible get hurt. Obviously I need to work even harder at earning my spot as herd leader with him, as I am not yet there!! I've decided to start taking him out alone and just working with him for a number of sessions so that he only has me to focus on - I anticipate it might be a bit more challenging for us but I think it will really help us and enable me to perhaps better earn his trust in my leadership. All in all though, Link did do well. It was a first where I had been able to earn his partnership enough to take him from RB to LB so shortly within a session, particularly to the point where I could ride him!! He did do amazing, but we still have a ton of work to do!