I have actually got some things going on in my life and my computer time is rather limited ever since my laptop decided its best option was to shut down for life...so this posting will be rather short! More to come next week though.
Friday, my first day back home (I have been away for 3 weeks!!) I originally went out to the barn to ride Sonny but ended up riding Link instead - what a joy!! Link seemed pretty happy to see me, even walking up to me initially in the pasture and following me out easily to the barn to be tacked up. I decided to work him in the outdoor arena, since I knew already he would be fine indoors - might as well work where it is hardest! My theory is that if I have got his attention and focus outdoors and further desensitize him to working in such a distractive environment, that he will only be that much better. Initially he was pretty strung out outside; on the ground he tore around like a madman and could not keep his feet still. After working with him for about 5 minutes however, I eventually got him down to a walk on the circling game, and very responsive and quiet with the other 7 games (including the sideways game without use of the wall and having him spiral in and out at the trot on the circling game). We did some w/t/c on the ground, including having him pick up the correct lead at the canter traveling right, prior to finishing up our maybe 10-15 minute stint on the ground with some 'follow-me'; I acted as if he were loose, held out my time though when I held the bit in front of him, he wiggled his lips as if to pick it up on his own ;) Under-saddle, Link rode like absolute magic!!!! Right from the start, I started him off by riding him on the buckle and just getting forward movement, letting him work long and loose at the trot. As he relaxed though (and this was outdoors, where he's most reactive!!), he lowered his head and reached forward and down, allowing his back to swing - the feeling of him pushing from behind was amazing! He had much more impulsion than he has ever had. After a bit, I started to slowly gather my reins as he picked himself up - the result was utter bliss!!! He reached forward and down into the contact, pushed from behind, lifted his back (which rolled beautifully and smoothly beneath my seat), and worked away, even down the long sides of the arena. He probably worked in a 'collected' frame a good 90 percent of the first half of our ride - it was an incredible feeling; I've never had him work so consistently in such a frame. I think his teeth being done might have had something to do with it, as well as perhaps something J, who has been riding him the past 3 weeks that I have been away, was doing... He really focused in on what I was asking and felt extremely in tune though; for example, each time I'd change direction/ask for a different bend, he'd feel my weight shift and would automatically start doing what I was about to ask. We were in complete partnership. The latter quarter or half of our ride did not go quite as nicely, but I wonder if he was sore or distracted, or what. I think it might be possible that I simply over-worked him a bit accidentally and thus his muscles were tired. He lightened up his contact and was a little stiff to the left, and was not collecting as nicely (no reaching forward and down and allowing the back to swing with the hind end pushing). So I am really hoping that I can get back what we had, our next ride, and then stop while we're ahead. Either way, it gave me immense hope to feel him progress so incredibly, so I know it's there (he felt like he was moving like a Warmblood!!!), I just have to learn how to bring it out. Shoulder-in's/out's were fantastic, as were changes in bend. Anyway, my next ride on him will likely be tomorrow, so I am keeping my fingers crossed that we can accomplish much. My goal over the next two months is to ride him 6-7 days a week and to get in a few shows, one or two by the end of April.
I was rather pumped after watching a schooling show at the Anderson ranch yesterday; it showed me a bit of where Link and I are at and where we need to be, what we have to work on to get where we want to be. My next stop is to hopefully attend a dressage and maybe a show jumping show next weekend, to better assess where we are at on those levels and what we need to aim for in the near future here. I have a couple of brief comments on that show as well, but I will save it for a future post if I get the chance.
Lastly, my hope is to ride Link daily this following week and to get him into a regular schedule. We brought Cody in to where Link and Sonny are as well Friday, so I would like to include him in my schedule this next week. Already Cody is doing well. Friday after dropping him off I actually gave him a good grooming and played all 7 games with him in the roundpen, including several at liberty. He was exceptional and even allowed me to catch him afterward, after I had turned him loose in his pasture! So we'll see how Monday goes, if he allows me to catch him easily enough and how he works.
The 9th or 10th (or both!) I have two horses coming in for training, so they will be being worked regularly as well and will be included on the blog - watch for updates!