Danny is so cool!!!!
So... I hauled him and Fleck up to Beth's for a lesson. I wasn't sure if I was doing things right or not and felt like we needed some "eyes on the ground". I got tacked up and did the "left, right, crouching tiger" stuff with him briefly. Then Beth showed me three ways to make him back up - the rope wiggle, the sweep, and then the head tap. He figured out all three quickly so then I did them with him too. Beth said I should do this before I ride him every time.
Then I got on and made him stand at the mounting block. Then off we went. The first five minutes he was a brat. He let out a few leaps and bucks. He rooted with his head. He flung his head. He veered. Beth said to NOT let him root. If he roots, I'm supposed to pop the reins (one side or the other, but not the same one every time) and use my leg or whip. That is not acceptable! So I did, and the first time I used the whip. And whoo hoo!!! He did NOT appreciate that. It sent him into a leaping spree. But I kept him under control and we went back to work. Then he rooted a few more times and I did another little pop of the reins and a kick and/or gentler tap with the whip, and he got mad, but didn't leap so much. And then he stopped rooting. Beth kept telling me to make sure that when he does his shenanigans (and even when he's not) to really make sure to keep my legs in front of me, my shoulders up and back, and my hands low. When he goes to leap frogging, I shouldn't raise my hands, but instead grab the "ohcrapstrap" with one hand, and make sure my shoulders are up and back and my feet forward. It definitely is much easier to sit them that way. And he manages to run into himself essentially when I've grabbed the strap, so it's self-controlling in some ways.
After the shenanigans were over, he started to work like a good boy and was really quite good! We worked on trotting and then transitions. Trot to walk to trot to walk to trot to walk. It keeps his mind engaged and helps his body cooperate. Beth said that I could try baby leg yields to get him from falling in but to also remember that my whip could be lightly applied to his shoulder. He knows that aid already, so he should move away from the whip. If I add my leg, he'll start to figure out that leg means move off. :) And she also said to make sure that I don't let him counterbend that direction especially!! Even if it means we make tiny circles, no counter bending! Got it...
So then we worked on trot to walk to halt to walk to trot, but with only a few walk steps. And the key there was straightness. That took a bit, but we got it. So then I mentioned that at this point, he had it all figured out and was going to start to get bored and come up with ways to make it fun. ;) So Beth said our next step was to work on transitions within the gait! WHAT?! Eeeks! But he was simply awesome!!!! All I did was post taller and close my leg a teeny bit and his gait got bigger! Then I posted smaller and shorter and tightened my core and holy crapballs he shrunk his trot!!! I didn't even have to touch the reins! It was sooooo cool. It was like he already knew how to do it!! So SOOOO cool!! Now I just have to remember how sensitive he is to my seat and remember to ride from my seat first.
Then we moved to trotting over two little skinny ground poles to stress straightness and steering. Hee hee. That was a little hard. He kept wanting to pop a shoulder, so I got to use my outside leg and I got him squared away. Then Kathy pulled the tractor up and Dan used that as an excuse and leapt up and went on a mini bucking spree! I lost a stirrup and thought I might come off but managed to sit up with my shoulders and get my feet in front of me and lo an behold, he came back to me. Then right back over those poles we went. :)
So... he was SUPER!!! The key to him (Beth stressed repeatedly!) is that I really need to be firm. He's too smart and picks up on things too quickly. That means that I need to be very strict. If he's not allowed to root, he's not allowed to root. Once I'm firm with him, he behaves. But if I let him get away with it, he will. And it won't be any cuter when he's 4 and 5. I also need to mix it up to keep his brain and body engaged. Beth also said that I shouldn't really worry about connection just yet... work on getting the rooting under control and then we can work on the connection. But I have a sneaky suspicion that one more ride of "no rooting" and that will go away. We'll see if he tests me on it though or not.
So yep... SUPER excited about him. He's got such nice gaits too. Even his walk is springy. Beth said he had super gaits too and was going to be really fantastic in his flat work. I'm so excited!!!!