Heads up

Something’s definitely up with Johnny. The past two rides he’s decided that the appropriate response to any stimuli is head up in the air. He’s running around inverted, and my best guess is he’s a little back-sore–though not enough to illicit a response when I run my fingers down his lats. More likely he’s a little tender from actually using his back, and the days off I’ve given him weren’t enough for the lactic acid to dissipate. At any rate, I’m trying to encourage him to stretch forward and down to stretch those muscles, but I’m having little luck. What’s weird, though, was that out of nowhere, he gave me a good canter lengthening (and came back) and a decent trot lengthening (and came back). The canter lengthening was a first for him–and it was truly a lengthening: his stride got longer without increasing in speed. Even more amazing was the fact that I regrouped it in the corner into a circle, and he came back into a more contained canter. Where did that come from? The trot lengthening was not as substantial, but he did make an effort, and it was noticeable enough for me to feel.
I have to admit I got pretty frustrated there for awhile, and I got into his mouth a bit. I immediately regretted it–it’s like losing my temper with my son for him acting like a 3 year old (he is 3 years old). So, I went back and made the old side reins–I locked my thumbs into the saddle, effectively turning my reins into side reins–and let him sort it out, at first at the halt, then at the walk, and finally at the trot. When he finally realized there was nothing to fight (he could only pull against himself), he relented enough that I could soften the contact and follow his mouth. This, he discovered, was much more pleasant, and if he attempted to resist again, back on went the “side reins.” It’s a trick Sarah Martin showed me when I was having trouble with Gambler so many years ago (though she had me do it in conjunction with a turn on the forehand).
So, all in all, it was not my favorite ride of the year, but it’s nice to know we’re making progress even on our off days. Maybe tomorrow we’ll just go for a hack, and hopefully Wednesday will be another XC day!

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