Kota is making advances and is learning quite nicely. Tuesday became it a "spa day" for my lame one, the TWH, and thus he got curried, brushed and clipped so he would look like a respectable beast again. When I was done I remembered clipping is one of the things I was asked to work on so out Kota came. Overall he did really well. We started really slow and he was very good for most of it. I was able to trim his muzzle, beard hairs and his left ear without almost any reaction. On the last section though, his right ear, he threw a fit. He reared and backed several times, cutting my thumb and rearranging all of my aisle mats in the process. Yanking on the halter wasn't making a difference so I brought out the stud chain to remind him that rearing is never the answer and when he reared I backed him at least 150 feet each time. In the end he seemed to have gotten it as he let me hold the clipper to his right ear three times and we called it a night. Last night I started with a review of the clipper session and was very pleased that while Kota threw his head a couple of times, his feet stayed firmly on the ground and he allowed the clippers on both ears. Progress!
When I had ridden him on Monday I had noticed his saddle really doesn't fit. He had a nice sweat pattern everywhere but his withers and his rump so today I took some time to investigate. Unfortunately the saddle sits directly on his withers and is completely bridged over his back and doesn't make contact again until right behind the cantle. Damn. I dug out one of my sheepskin pads and a gel pad and with some creative stacking/folding I was able to get the saddle to sit on him fairly properly. I, however, was perched about 3 inches above him. The owner won't be pleased to realize her saddle doesn't fit, hopefully she can get another saddle or find a pad(s) that will work in the interim.
The ride itself went really well, the best ride yet in fact! Kota stood like a good horse while I mounted, stood while I picked up the reins and walked off nicely when asked. He bent pretty well both directions at the walk, willingly gave a shoulder in both directions and even offered a baby halfpass. Wahoo! He didn't offer to stiffen and blow through my leg a single time (and I wasn't riding with spurs) and was easy-peasy. His trot is coming along as well, last night we worked on getting him to rate his own speed and it was a success. We worked on getting a good, slow trot, having me let him go and not touching him unless he sped up. By the end of the ride we were able to make one lap around the arena with only one correction. That is a huge step for him in my book. We also worked on figure 8's and this time he was finally able to get the change of direction without falling apart.
To finish the ride we worked on some turn on the haunches with success and tried a turn on the forehand with complete failure. I may need the spurs or a crop again to get him to understand to move the haunches away from the leg pressure. No biggie though, we are still taking baby steps. We also worked on backing with a leg cue instead of yanking on his mouth, personally I hate seeing people pulling to get a horse to back. IMO a horse should back with light pressure from the bit or with a leg cue so I am installing a leg cue as his current "button" is pulling. A night off tonight, ride tomorrow and the Crazy April starts.