Today was a three-horse day. Pie went on a trail ride this morning - it was already getting warm and humid and he got very hot and winded, so I got off and led him part of the way home. He seems very sensitive to the heat, so I have to be careful to work him early on hot days when it's still cool, and to be sure to bring him in out of his dry lot paddock - it gets hot due to the bare ground - and put him under a fan on the hottest days. Dawn and I had a nice ride, too - I think I need to remove one shim from the front of the Mattes pad now that the saddle's been reflocked. Dawn and I did some nice shortening and lengthening of stride at the trot, and some good stretching down work.
Drift and I have been working on his canter - the reflocked saddle fits him just about perfectly. After we did a good bit of trot work - he was able to trot steadily with almost no attempts to leap into canter - we did some canter work. My job at this point is to have him canter on the correct lead, and to help him maintain the canter with light but supportive legs and light contact but without hanging on him - I'm not ready to ask him for softening - and to steer. I want to do as little as possible and make sure I stay centered and balance and out of his way - and I need to keep breathing myself. Other than that, I need him to just move and learn how to carry himself - and I want him to start breathing properly.
I first learned about the importance of breathing at the canter at the Mark Rashid clinic in 2009. Horse #8 at the clinic was very worried and it showed up in his inability to breathe correctly at the canter - here's the post about that - take the time to read it if you can - it's pretty interesting. At the clinic this year - see my clinic posts on the sidebar - Drift was also holding his breath, particularly at the canter, and we did some work on that. He was both holding his breath for several strides, and also not breathing deeply - this showed up as irregularity in the canter - leaping and bounding and odd gestures with his head - and he also would become fatigued quickly from not having sufficient oxygen. We've been continuing the work at home, and he's making a lot of progress. His left lead canter is easier for him, and when we canter in that direction, his breathing becomes rhythmical and fairly deep pretty quickly - the horse should exhale noticeably and deeply on each canter stride with the effort - the exhale is at the moment of suspension when all four feet are off the ground. For the horse to have sufficient oxygen, the exhale needs to happen every stride, and needs to be deep enough to allow the lungs to empty to take in sufficient air with the inhale. The right lead is still a work in progress - today I noticed that he wasn't breathing out but on every second or third stride, so we kept working until he was breathing every stride, although we still need a deeper exhale - but he's making very good progress, and the more progress he makes, the calmer and more responsive he gets and the better he's able to carry himself.
These little things make all the difference.