Am so happy about my progress last night. When I rode with my riding buddy on Tuesday the App gave her some attitude, mostly pinned hears and a swishy tail protesting transitions and good forward movement. Despite that she was able to get some nice canter circles out of him and still had a good time. The boys got the day off Wednesday thanks to a trip to the vet for the dog (itchy ears) so I figured I would suck it up and work the App last night.
I gave him a good brushing and de-haired as much as I could. I am starting to see his summer coat shine through, and shine it is! He was pleasant and attentive to what I was doing, progress I thought. I only had about a half hour of ride time available so I figured what better way to feel satisfactorily tired after a 30 min ride than to do it bareback. This is taking a fairly big gamble with the App since he has been so bad lately but I had made up my mind. Grabbed my lead rope, bridle and pad and headed off to the arena realizing I had a 25% chance of actually riding since our groundwork sessions are quite spotty, most times he requires some pretty strong convincing that I am the boss. We yielded his shoulders, backed, stopped, turned and then faced to those dreaded haunches and side passes. I know this is the turning point in our session, he has been very soft and responsive so far but the haunches are his sticking point. If this doesn't go well then I know my ride just disappeared.
I asked him to yield his haunches on his better side and he moved without any thought. Holding my breath I asked him to sidepass and he... just did it? Didn't swat a tail or throw his head? Hmmm. Asked for another yield and went to the other side. Could he possibly be listening and not fighting me tonight??? He hesitated about moving his haunches but then stepped under himself like he has been doing it for years (which he has). Sidepassing was a breeze too. I was so happy I figured I would really push my luck, why not right?
Threw my pad on in an attempt to stay cleaner and hopped aboard leaving the bridle hanging up. Just me, my horse, a pad and a halter. I hadn't done this for a couple of years and its been close to a year since I had ridden him bareback. Asked for a walk and worked on steering with my legs. And stopped. And walked. No issues, no attitude, nothing. Pushed forward into a trot and if anything it was pokey. I was able to walk, trot and canter in just a halter without ever feeling out of control. I truly didn't think I would ever be able to do that again on him, it brought tears to my eyes as I finished. I am so happy we got back to this point, I really hope we can stay here for a while.
This weekend is our big challenge as I will be taking him on a trail ride on Saturday after my lesson on the TWH and then we have our dressage lesson on Sunday. If nothing else I should have lots to report on Monday!