But, let me back up. First off, Echo has become an ANGEL to load on the trailer. Not that he was bad to begin with, but he'd hesitate now and then and require a bit of a pat on the butt. Now he just follows me right in, no problem. I may try teaching him to self-load, but we'll save that for later. :)
In warmup, all of the ground work and dressage work we've been doing has really paid off. We're doing a TON of laterals to get going - lots of leg yields down the rail and across the arena, squares, a little shoulder fore. My goal is to make sure I'm sitting evenly in the saddle (I tend to shift my weight left) and make sure he's responsive to my leg so that when we trot and everything 300x faster, he responds to my aids and doesn't fall in. Once I'm sure we've got that, we move on to trot.
I've discovered that I have to plan our rides pretty carefully, being sure not to do too much warmup so that I still have plenty of horse left for the actual lesson. It's not the he gets physically tired, it's that he gets mentally tired, I think. On the track, workouts are half an hour, and you can totally tell when Echo's timer goes off the first time. He likes to park somewhere and pretend like he's not going to move, lol! To avoid the "but... but... we're DONE!" argument, I'm taking frequent short breaks. This also seems to be helping to allow his brain to reset since the lateral stuff is all very hard on him mentally. It really helps get him focused and attentive on me, but that's hard on his baby brain.
All the lateral work at the walk is translating into much less falling in at the trot. We had some amazing trots today, bent in the corners, soft in the poll - and of course we had some really awful moments in between, but that's OK. I'm asking for more and he's giving me more! Our canter was big, rolling, and oh-so-balanced... LOVE IT!!!
We did a couple of Xs for jump warm-up, and he was straight and nicely forward. Then, Paige added a ground pole. Echo approached it bravely enough, but sort of got his legs muddled. He was SUPER careful and didn't touch a thing, but you could tell he was thinking hard about what to do with his feet. We came though several more times, then Paige move the pole closer for a bit of a shorter distance. On the approach, I could feel him slow as he was sizing it up, and just kept my leg on. He compressed into this teeny little step, practically did a levade, and went over the fence. Good boy! A bigger distance was easier for him, and he adjusted his stride like it was nothing.
But then, we move on to another tiny vertical... WITH TWO TROT POLES. Echo's poor brain did not compute, and he stuttered to a walk on the approach. I smacked him on the shoulder with my bat and we walked over the poles, and then he daintily stepped over the vertical. We came around again at the trot, and he managed to organize his feet enough to make it through. The third time through, he forgot about his hind feet over the jump and touched it - he didn't make that mistake again! Once he was going through nicely, we moved the poles to the other side of the jump and approached it from the other direction. I swear it was like starting all over again, lol! He got better and better the more we did it, as he was able to figure out what to do with his feet. Ground poles take a lot of coordination, didn't you know?
For our grande finale, we did the vertical with two trot poles, then a big circle in the corner of the arena, then the vertical with one trot pole. After the first vertical, he landed in this perfect balanced right lead canter (the correct lead), and I went with it. We did a lovely 20 meter circle and the canter, came back to a nice trot, and trotted to the second fence. He came in a bit fast, but then adjusted his stride (all by himself!) to get a comfortable distance. He cantered away from that fence too, nice as you please, and I went with it down the long side. He was such a good boy, I was really super pleased with him, and Paige thought he did great. Naturally I have no pics or video of us in action, but here are the extremely difficult fences we jumped:
ONE trot pole. With FLOWERS!
TWO! TWO TROT POLES! You have no idea how hard this is.
After I hosed him off, Echo discovered the fabulous floor fan. He happily stood in front of it for about 15 minutes, without moving a single foot. I think he wants one for his birthday.
Yep, that's my maniacal ground-tied baby racehorse. Better be careful - he might inspect you for treats!
Tomorrow: Dressage lesson! Woot!!!