On day two, Drift and I rode outside for the first time. (In fact, all my rides except for my day one ride on Drift were outside.) If you look at the pictures of my day one ride with Dawn, you'll see that the outdoor arena is a large unfenced area - it's very open. This was the first time I'd ever ridden Drift outside an enclosed arena, and I was curious how he'd do. I had been taking him outside to hand graze next to the arena while others were riding to get him used to the sights and sounds.
The first thing we did was refresh our mounting work. Mark talked a bit about something he had me doing with Drift on day one - breaking the pattern. Our pattern had been for me to have Drift come up to the block, get on and have him start to move off, lead him around and start. On day one, Mark had me do something different with him to have him approach the block - he'd been coming up with his hindquarters a bit to the outside and so Mark had me move him around, whenever I had to reposition him, without having him move forwards and in a way that required him to move his hindquarters and then approach the block from a position where his hindquarters were a bit to the inside. The purpose of this wasn't to change his position but rather to break up the pattern and get him to think about things. Visualize this if you can - our starting position was with Drift standing near the block with his head to my left and hindquarters to my right. I took the left rein - the one closest to me - and directed him to bring his head around in front of me and then take some steps around to my right - his head would then be to my right and hindquarters to my left (a 180 degree inside turn). Then I would take his right rein, ask him to swing his hindquarters around away from me and bring his head back across in front of me, ending with him standing next to me at the block (another 180 degree inside turn) - getting the hindquarters to move was important to break up his thought pattern and get his mind working on figuring out what I wanted.
Within minutes, he was standing still as I got on. Mark then had me wait for a while, sitting there, still on a loose rein - 10 seconds or so - before asking him to move off - the objective again was to break the pattern of my getting on, and moving him off pretty quickly - we wanted to put a gap in between mounting and moving forwards so he wouldn't anticipate and would wait for my signal. It worked like a charm.
Then we moved on to confirming our softening work at the walk, working on softening and speed regulation at the trot, and walk/trot/walk transitions, with some halts and backing thrown in as well. Mark said the softening work at the walk and the backing looked really nice. We spent some minutes refining the walk/halt transition - I was using my breathing and changing the internal rhythm to ask him to halt - if there was any hesitation in his halt - I wanted it within two steps - we turned in a quite small circle until he offered to stop, and then backed until he softened. It didn't take too long for that to be working pretty nicely.
Then we worked at the trot. Mark said his head position at the trot looked pretty good for a horse at his stage of training - it could be refined later - the most important thing was to have him move and learn by moving.
After we worked on the trot for a while, the attempt to canter showed up again - probably when he was getting a bit tired at the trot - Mark noted on day one the leaping into canter showed up as soon as we tried to trot but that he was able to trot longer today before he felt the need to canter.
His breathing still wasn't all that regular, although it was a lot better already than on day one - in the canter initially it was much more rhythmical than on day one but Mark said it was still a bit tense and shallow. So we did a lot more cantering - we cantered and cantered and cantered some more - until he was able to start breathing properly. Cantering with the space in the outdoor arena was much easier for him than in the small indoor, which helped. The right lead was more difficult for him - he had some trouble picking it up and it started out pretty rough, although it got a lot better as we worked and as his breathing started to become regular and deep - his failure to breathe properly was interfering with his movement. Mark suspects he just needed to move his body until he was able to breathe properly again - the trot work was stalled because he was no longer able to do the more intense trot work I was asking for while breathing incorrectly. (For a simple lead change, cue for change of lead after 1, 3 or any odd number of trot strides.)
After a good walking around rest break, we did a bit more trot work - he was able to move much better and very rarely offered to canter - at the end the quality of the trot was really improving. And his ability to focus and work were also very good - Dawn was screaming for him from time to time and he would sometimes call back, but was able to come right back to me and keep on working. Any time another horse was moving around nearby, he also got distracted, but only for a moment. I was very proud of him.
To be continued on day three . . .