And this photo shows how beautifully muscled up he's gotten with regular, good work - he's standing on an uphill slope here:
Then I rode Drifter. We had a really wonderful work session. He softened right up for me in halt and back after a few moments of resistance - much better than Wednesday. Heather had me work on getting him to give a big walk, then a bigger, even more animated walk, while offering softness, without throwing away my reins, if he stretched down but maintaining enough contact to catch him immediately and redirect him down if he inverted and went up. The goal was to have such a big, engaged, soft walk that trot just flowed right out of it. After several interrupted "hops" where he tried to throw his head up, invert his back and thrown himself into trot - this is a really engrained, habitual behavior with him - he did some really nice walk/trot transitions, followed immediately by a very forward, engaged, stretching down, big trot. The trick was for me to interrupt the going up the instant it started to occur - if possible when he was just thinging about it and hadn't done it yet. After a rest break, I got two beautiful transitions out of the huge walk into trot, and some amazing, really big trot. Heather says his gaits are exceptional at both walk and trot (and canter is also pretty nice already - it tends to go with a good walk) - she said his free walk scores would have been very high. His back and barrel swings, and he's learning that he doesn't have to cramp up in front and can stretch his top line. The feel and quality of his gaits is amazing - he's starting to be everything I thought he could be. He's beginning to figure out that there's a more comfortable, soft way to move, and is starting to give up on his habitual, braced behaviors - I couldn't be more delighted!
It was an exceptionally fine day with horses!