Some background first: He's been doing amazingly since our show at the beginning of the month. The weather forced us to have a few days off and walk-only rides which lead to a pretty bad ride Sunday where he was both lazy and energetic.
Another cold night under the lights for us. I need to just settle in and get used to it, but riding in the dark and cold just isn't as fun for anyone.
Mort started off fairly well. He had a forward walk and I was mentally trying to trust him on a loose rein. I did some bending with just the inside rein since we struggled with bending left the last ride. He did decently. I picked him up and we did some more walking on contact with lots of changes of direction. He wanted to be a bit behind the hand but we found some nice moments where I'd let him down to stretch.
I moved on to trot. He was more forward than he had been on Sunday (thank goodness). But he was pretty tense (probably partially from Sunday being such a fight). I 100% admit that I don't trust him on the buckle when it's dark and cold as he's a good bit spookier, but I did leave his face alone. After a few big figure eights of being wildly off-balance and falling on the inside shoulder I decided to try to do the inside rein bending that I did at the walk. I was OK but nothing wonderful. We could do it on the rail, but when I moved him off of it we fell apart a bit. To the right his head would fly into the air and to the left his butt would come to the inside and he'd fall on his inside shoulder.
I was getting frustrated--a feeling that should never come into contact with horses. I changed directions. I tried to hold a following contact. I tried circles. I tried squares. Eventually I tried cantering and (not surprisingly) had the same issue. I just COULD NOT get him to connect to the outside rein while tracking left. I did some squares in the canter. I went around like a chicken with its head cut off for a bit (at least that's how it felt). Eventually I got a couple of circles of canter where I had a consistent and soft feel of his mouth in my right hand and he was not leaning on my left leg. We stopped cantering (and I didn't canter again in the ride).
I tried some more trotting. It wasn't great at first but eventually it did start to work out. I know that part of us doing terribly tracking left is my fault. Everyone is a little crooked and I'm no exception (and neither is Mort). Since it's harder to get him to turn off of my seat I squeeze/lean/hold/will him with every fiber of my being and that obviously only makes things worse. Then I get frustrated and ride even worse.
Finally he was trotting really nicely. He was forward and reaching down. We could change directions without majorly loosing balance. I could go straight and then ask him to bend and turn. We did trot/walk/trot transitions where he was calm and forward. I played with this fun trot for ten minutes or so then called it quits and did our normal walking at the end.
I know some of tracking left are my issues. I know some are his issues. I know some are training issues. I know some are resistance issues because of previous frustration issues. I need to remember to think straight, then outside aids, then inside aids. Turning aids, then straighten aids, then turning aids because it makes me not just squeeze and hold and it helps him to separate what I actually want. Start with big, sweeping turns where I focus on his outside shoulder then throw in some smaller ones as we warm up more. Forward and down is more important because adding bend and moving off of my leg is in there when he's relaxed and listening.
The good news is that the nice trot work is coming more and more often. I'm blaming the snow and time off on Sunday's ride and the beginning of last night's. His work tracking right is getting so much better and more consistent; I just half-halt with the outside rein and touch him with the inside leg and he holds himself where I want for a good amount of time before needing another reminder. He's getting more relaxed both ways and in the transitions. Him being relaxed and happy while pushing from behind and using his topline is a blast to ride. I think I'm having more fun with him now than I ever have.