Man, we are progressing at the speed of light!
Last night, after only about 8 months of preparation...
We cantered allll the way around the ring! First time since Thanksgiving, when the terrifying dog spooked Princess which in turn terrified me. Go us! Oh heck, go ME! River's been fine, I'm the one with issues. We cantered a couple circles at our usual end of the ring, cantered all the way around, circled at the far end, and cantered all the way around another time or two. He is so so so good!! Mind you, this was all to the left... we tried again and failed again to get a right lead canter. I'm thinking I'll try once more before our lesson, and if it doesn't happen, I'll leave it until the lesson.
We didn't do too much because it was still pretty hot, although when it's SO hot during the day, suddenly a mere 80 degrees in the evening isn't so bad. (Although when we halted at the end of the ride and there was no longer moving air, I realized I was dripping sweat. Gross.)
He's gotten quite good about staying on the second track and not falling out to the rail. We've also been working on halting, and that's going great. I don't have to do anything with the reins, just keep normal contact. I tried asking him to halt on a loose rein.. he slowed down but didn't halt. Which is fine, I'm just happy that he recognizes the "slow down" seat aids.
We also worked on backing. This might sound weird or strangely braggy, but... I'm good at getting horses to back. The first attempt or two might not be too good while the horse figures out what's going on... River tends to ignore, lean, and then stretch his head and neck out weirdly the first time I ask, then he's fine. I halted him in front of the mirror so I could watch myself.. he backed very nicely, and I couldn't see myself do anything. It's always so fun when you get the buttons installed and working properly so you don't have to do much. When I ask to back, it goes like this: from the walk, sit up, tense abdominal muscles (so my body stops following the motion of the walk), close my thighs/knees on the saddle, close my fingers slightly on the reins. That gets us from walk to halt. Then, without changing anything (so still sitting up, tense abs, knees/thighs squeezing gently, fingers closed), I add just a touch of inside leg. And voila, the horse backs quietly.
Love it. It's so satisfying. My old guy is the same about backing, and when he was in work, canter-trot transitions were so fun. I had a friend ride him in a show for me because I had a broken finger, and one day she was practicing on him. She's cantering around and cantering around, and eventually she goes "how do I make him stop?" I was like "oh, it's easy! You just need to sit up, lift your shoulders, close your thighs, squeeze your fingers on the reins, and then start posting, he'll go right into it!"
One of the many perks of riding one horse all the time, you teach each other your cues. It's like having a secret language with your best friend. Except many of the cues are pretty universal, so maybe it's more like eaking-spay ig-pay atin-lay.
No riding tonight, going to see Despicable Me 2!