I have to say, this was just what was needed: To leave the canter, for now, and simply focus on helping Forrest confirm his connection into the trot, before we go any further. Yes, he can trot prettily around the arena and change rein and do a 20-meter circle here and there. But, obviously, there is much more strengthening and suppling work to be done.
As race horses spend their career galloping to the left, it follows that all the muscles on the left side of their bodies are contracted (hollow), yet nice and long on the right (stiff) side. So when we track to the right, poor Forrest is like a banana laying on its side, curved to the left: it’s really physically difficult for him to streeeetch those muscles on the left side of his body and even harder for him to yield in the ribcage and begin to bend around my right, inside leg. Which means ya just gotta keep working at it! And, in my case, I gotta make sure I am straight: that my shoulders are following his, that I advance my outside shoulder around, step a bit more into my right, inside, stirrup, keeping that leg long and solidly against the girth—like a fence post for him to bend around.
So while the first several rides have focused on, first, not getting dumped, and then riding Forrest’s shoulders straight, as well as keeping his jaw supple and asking him to remain forward, now that I’m asking for a bit of bend, I’m warming him up spiraling in and out of a circle at walk. And today, I added an easy, big, three-loop serpentine to our trot work.
I also added spurs for the first time—mild, round, swan-neck knobs—because I need more help than my Olive Oyl calves can provide to assist in yielding his right rib cage over. It was nice to realize all that was needed was a small, “bounce” with the spur, from time to time, to help him grasp the idea.
By in large, he was a very good boy and when he did lose balance and come above the bit, it was easy to send him forward and straight back into the connection and, as always, a nice stretch over his back, in both directions, was given as a reward.
My own reward, after cooling him off, picking stalls, rotating horses out into the field and cleaning tack, was to hit Starbucks for a pumpkin spice latte. Is it just me, or does it take nothing more than a good workout and a cup of java for perfect bliss that lasts for days?