Link and I had a lesson both last Thursday and today. Last lesson he did very well - we worked on getting him very supple first prior to asking for the canter. To the left he did great, but to the right, we only got the correct lead the first time, when we "surprised" him. K (my instructor) left me with some new exercises to do with Link (such as changing bends down a centerline) and some stuff to work on (such as having him canter to the right on-line on the ground).
Yesterday was my first chance to work with Link since returning home from work; we started with our couple minutes of groundwork, as usual, including some canter. He picked up the correct lead on a 22-24' circle and balanced himself pretty well going to the left, but had a lot of trouble picking up his lead to the right (he'd either cross-fire or just counter-canter). Finally he did pick it up though and we ended there to take up our under-saddle work. Under-saddle, I primarily worked on suppling and relaxing Link throughout his body, both sides...particularly on the right side. We worked a lot on strengthening the right side as well - lots of trot. Lots of bending and relaxation at the trot before calling it a day. We finished by cooling out at liberty (including trotting some patterns - long side of the arena inclusive), which was pretty fun! Even down the long sides of the arena he was great and responsive to my seat - he didn't pick up too much speed. We even did some leg yield at the trot at liberty!! It's a challenge for me to figure out how to tell him to leg yield without any reins to use, but we managed to get a few steps here and there in each direction. K has also pointed out that as we continue working I'll use less rein to get him bent and more leg instead (like I do with Silver). At first I didn't really realize I use much rein - and I don't, the rein I use is primarily supportive, but I use more rein than I would on say Silver, for a bend. So I think the ultimate would be to practise some of these things (bend, leg yields, etc) at liberty - with no rein. Maybe if we take that rein away every once in awhile I will learn how to communicate with him effectively and he will learn what I am asking and to be responsive, without the supportive rein. We'll try it out ;)
Today Link's circling game was fabulous - he picked up the correct lead to the right 100 percent of the time and only cross-fired a couple of times. His left lead was fine. So, progress! I'll keep working him on the ground on the small circles as well, to help teach him to balance himself at the canter. Under-saddle, K had me work on some relaxed trot with Link as well as some spiraling in and out at the trot. I am finally figuring out how to communicate to Link that I want him to stay bent, not fall in, and still spiral. Lol. We picked up a nice canter to the left rather easily (he is really learning to keep his mind relaxed and not get so wound up when we pick up speed!), and picked up the correct lead to the right after a couple of tries! The best part was that he remained pretty relaxed - after I figured out I could use my outside rein to slow him down and forget about bend, hehehe. We took a couple of spins around the arena (achieving some amazing relaxation, suppleness, and even frame, complete with some tracking up) before calling it quits on the canter. Poor guy had to work pretty hard going to the right though, but he did well and tried his hardest for me. K mentioned that he seemed to be expecting pain going to his right - like he used to hurt when he cantered to the right and is expecting the same to happen now; then as he canters, he realizes that he's ok, that it doesn't hurt, and he relaxes. So, the more we canter to the right and the more he is relaxed (and pain-free), the more we'll improve. I think too this new saddle suits him better as well - he does not swish his tail at all anymore and there's no more uber-elevation/buck when he canters. Meanwhile probably our biggest challenge is teaching Link he can move forward - he is so used to being held back that when he gets excited, he just gets elevated and shortens his stride (at the trot, he basically does a peanut-pusher trot, lol) - even if I have left the reins loose. So now it's to teach the racehorse to have impulsion, stretch out, and move forward (lol) - relaxedly. We're getting there! Today we also obtained some good extended trot strides as well. Anyways, today was some awesome success and I am looking forward to working hard for our next lesson on Tuesday.
While Link allowed me to walk right up to him today, he didn't seem so keen on the halter (he initially walked away when he saw it), so I guess it's time for me to get off my lazy butt and do some fun stuff with him - like progressing his groundwork (keeping his mind engaged) and taking him out for some hacks in the nearby fields. I wish we could do some riding in the mountains or something as well! Obviously though he needs more incentive to want to work with me (though he already does so much), so we'll have to work even harder at our partnership.
On another note, I haven't had much chance to work with Cody yet, but it looks like I might have a couple of weeks off here - so I will be using the time to work with both Cody and Link (and get some things caught up around home of course!).
I looked at an un-started 3yo Dutch Warmblood x TB mare and although I really liked her, we have decided not to purchase her. I just really don't want another horse on my plate right now, unless she is great. This mare is really nice and could be great, but it will be a long while before we can fully tell. She's a little light of bone, especially in her legs, and seems more suited as an eventer than a show-jumper. In the mean time, a lot of money would go into a filly we still have to have registered and whom I won't have the time and such to work with until at least next March, if not later in the year. There is a warmblood sale in March, so unless I see something that really catches my eye before then, I will attend the sale and see what I come up with there! Apparently good-quality, registered mares (about the equivalent of the mare I just mentioned) went for $1000 at this fall's sale. So I'll put some money aside and hopefully will spot something even better at the spring sale. We'll see, but in the mean time I have Link to concentrate on.
In another direction, I actually have someone coming out to see Koolaid tomorrow, and another on Sunday. I am currently looking to lease him out to someone, as I just don't have the time to put into him right now (I'd rather invest my time into Link and maybe another mare who has the potential to take me to the top, at this point). When we have our own property it will be different, because I don't have to spend time and gas to hang out with him and take him for the occasional spin - having our horses on our own property though could be while yet. Until then, I would love for someone to have the opportunity to learn on him and to excel on him - he gets used and is kept in shape, is loved, and the rider has a great opportunity... rather than him spending his time in a pasture. So, we'll see, as I am going to be pretty picky - they have to be good people who will treat him well. I'm not just going to send him on his way if it is not in his best interests :) Man, I would love for someone to even just keep Link at his current level while I am away through Dec, Jan, and Feb too, however I think it would be hard to find someone willing to take the time (who wants to take the time) and who has the patience and skill to not ruin what we've got so far. So we'll sort of be re-starting a bit when we start up again in March, but such is life!