Only time for the big dark man today, as I am headed out to Grande Cache this afternoon, to return Monday morning. Rather than taking him out on the trails, we spent another day doing dressage work in a flat area of one of the fields by the house. Link was pretty high energy - as usual (lol), but was super responsive and pretty relaxed for the most part. I find though that he is tenser on the left rein - he doesn't bend his body quite as cleanly, so we did quite a few more circles in that direction in a successful attempt at obtaining some nice curve on that rein. He surprised me though at how light he can be (leg aids)! At one point I simply slid my right leg back and boop his hind end popped over, without my even applying any real pressure! It was a good reminder for me to keep my leg aids light. Sometimes I get so focused on keeping my hands light, I forget that I can also keep my legs light as well - he's a pretty hyper-sensitive horse, so probably half of the pressure I sometimes use is really all that is necessary...keep it light!! I couldn't believe his level of engagement though - he worked from behind beautifully (for his level) for me a good 90 percent of our ride (a good 98 percent after the initial 10 minutes of warm-up). We did all the usual stuff - figure-8's, 10m circles, serpentines with circles at each change in direction, 15m circles along a straight line (with some nice collection on all the straightaway - uphill, downhill, and flat), and finishing with 20m circles (which he did the best he has done yet). I am learning too to use different cues with him - to keep my inside leg at his girth (even a tad ahead) to push him into a bend and my outside slightly back behind the girth to direct his hindquarters. I guess as our work evolves, so will my cues, understanding, knowledge, etc. Everything seems to change and develop with time. To be honest, a lot of times I don't fully understand exactly why I obtained what I did, but it worked! I think sometimes my body just does a lot of things on auto-pilot, innately, kind of like how your fingers will play an instrument even after you forget how to read the music (apparently my fingers still remember how to play flute, yet my emboucher, and particularly my brain, are pretty rusty!). Anyway, we also did some lateral work: leg yields (he's a little stiff yet moving to the right, my cueing with my left leg), shoulder-in's and haunches-in's (shoulder-in's were a little stiff on the left rein) - all of which he did pretty well. His problem is he needs to relax, but he did fairly well, particularly at the leg yields going left and shoulder-in's and haunches-in's on the right rein. We took a minute too to break down the shoulder-in he was having trouble with by doing some turns on the forehand and on the hindquarter (with left leg cues), which seemed to help. Lastly, Link and I took on some canter (more than just a few strides this time) in either direction - and I was, uhh...lucky(?) enough to experience the, um, brilliance (?hehe) of a very elevated canter. He was very, erm, engaged but all his impulsion just went UP into his canter (rather than forward) - it was a pretty neat feeling, lol. He was a little reactive at first, particularly on the one rein, but soon relaxed relatively - he was engaged the entire time, which was fantastic. A lot of tail wringing though, so we'll have to figure that out, but we've got a lot to iron out yet anyways (mentally/emotionally). Overall, I was pretty proud with his entire work - he was manageable, thinking (for the most part), working hard, responsive, and using his body efficiently - all in an open field. He is putting on good weight as well and seems to be building some topline. A pretty fulfilling ride!
No time for Cody, but I have been insisting on his allowing me to touch him while he eats his morning grain (supplements with beat pulp and a little handful of sweet feed for taste) the last couple times, via approach and retreat, persistence, and quiet body language. This morning, he allowed me to walk right up to his shoulder (usually I have to start at his butt and do approach and retreat to his head) and rub his head and neck right away even. There was one instance at the very beginning where he tried to turn his bum in towards me, but he moved it back after I gave a quiet but sharp "hey" and asked, with my body language, for him to disengage the hindquarter and put it back (away from me). He did so and stood still the rest of the time. Nice!!
Boys get a day off before I am back Monday for more play!! Weather permitting, I would like to take Cody out Tuesday for a 5-6 hour ride to re-trace our steps one of the days we were gathering cattle, to see if we can't find my lost camera. As far as photos go, I will pick up a couple of disposables and hopefully have some photos up here by the end of our stay at the ranch.