Today this is Pie's post - I also had very nice rides on both Dawn and Red - but today is Pie's.
Today, as usual, I worked on me - to help out Pie. When things with a horse aren't working quite right, or if there's something new to introduce, it helps a lot to simplify things. Trying to do too many things at once sometimes is confusing to the horse. My ride today on Pie focussed on getting only two things - forward, and stepping under and over with the inside hind leg, at both walk and trot - no canter until things are a bit more stable at the trot (if something isn't working at a slower gait, it certainly isn't going to work at a faster gait). My job was to stay off his face and in fact my reins were fairly loose most of the time during our ride. I only used a little bit of opening rein, when necessary, to get an inside bend, or just lightly brushed his neck with the outside rein to avoid bulging when circling. Other than that, no reins - look, ma! no hands!
By doing this, we lost a bit of rhythm and relaxation - he was very forward which is what I wanted but sometimes rushed a bit - and he wasn't always soft or using himself completely correctly. That was fine with me - with Pie, I need to have forward and the basics of bending coming from the rear end without interference from my hands - using my hands at this point tends to mean he loses impulsion and bend and the front disconnects from the back, which means there's no true softness, he falls on the forehand and the elements of forward and bend are absent.
It was a great success. His forward was excellent, and with the addition of more rhythm and relaxation, and a bit of softening through the head and neck (without diving), we'll be there. I had to work much harder than Pie - I had to keep my hands out of the mix, and make sure I was clear and allowing his movement and keeping my focus where it needed to be. I had to maintain a good, neutral body position with my head, torso, seat and legs - no leaning, pushing or pulling - to give him the opportunity to bend through the corners and on circles with only a little inside leg for support where needed.
When we took breaks, we also did a bit of backing work where I asked him not to dive/curl up while backing.
We'll keep working on this together, and as things work more consistently we'll add the other elements back in. Pie seemed pretty happy with our work together.
Tomorrow the footing in the arena is being replaced, so there will be no riding . . .