I met Jamie at the barn tonight for a trail ride with she and Tommy. It was a little smokey from the forest fires we've had (not close to us, thankfully), but it cleared out by the time we got tacked up. It was windy and stormy though. Amber was brave and took the lead part of the ride. When she started to lose her confidence, Tommy would lead and she'd relax more.
First time on the barn's trails, and they are nice I must say! Well groomed.
We did try some canter in the open area. She wanted to be lazy, until we tried it with Tommy cantering away, and she threw three fair sized bucks. I gave her a sharp reprimand and made her canter up and down the strip nicely.
Then we went in the arena. She acted like she was going to explode into a tantrum for a few minutes. She wanted to follow Tommy. Didn't take long for me to get her working though and she actually did very well. Started to get her head down and really use her hind end. We had some very nice, round canter, and great transitions. And even a short gallop down the long side (the ring is huge). I was super pleased with her work.
Obviously we need to work on her level of excitement and keeping her controlled in open areas, especially with other horses. Of course, if we event, it's not like we'll be running beside other horses on the XC course, but just because it's not something we have to do doesn't mean I don't want her to learn it's not okay.
She's young, we have plenty of time. But I am starting to rethink the route I want to go teaching her to soften. I don't want to be soft on her, but I'm not sure she will learn anything if I'm as harsh as Bob is recommending I be. I realized that the response I get from asking her to soften in the "normal" and "correct" way that I learned from Patricia is really great considering it's a new concept to her and she's still so green. It's way more than I ever even got with Jack. If I was getting that response from Jack, I would think he was on the right track and doing great. Why should I think differently for Amber? Her neck is set high, yes.
But really I'm just starting to question whether or not I think her conformation really DOES require her to carry herself lower than other horses to be sound. I think she needs to start doing so to help build her topline and learn to relax and stretch herself down. But to ride her differently than I would another horse? Like, way different? I just don't know. I feel like maybe the training fork will be a good *AID*, but I'm thinking ultimately I might just want to train her using what I have learned with Patricia. And I think I also need to revert back to what was working so well before: Lots of circles, serpentines, figure 8s, and ground poles. Just riding around and around asking and asking doesn't cut it. She gets bored and doesn't want to listen. If I keep her focused by changing things up and doing different things during our ride, she listens so much better. Working on transitions, lateral work and tempo.
Not that I think Bob is necessarily wrong or doesn't know what he's talking about...I just think it's a matter of method preference.
I also changed up bits today. I put the copper roller D back on. Definitely going back to the french link. She tends to tuck herself up behind the vertical when we are walking, but never in an irritated, chomping way. She was not happy about it. Perhaps it was what added to our good work in the arena though...I doubt it, I think I just finally started to put my seat and leg in high gear and APPLIED my body to the ride. I think it might have added to the bucking episode. I was in her mouth way too much because I felt her about to launch off after Tommy.
In the french link, she does tuck at the walk, but it's starting to be less of a bit avoidance than her trying to figure out where she needs to be. She chews but doesn't chomp like in the roller. I knew the first time I used that bit back at GEC she was too mouthy in it and didn't like it. Looks like it'll just go into storage. I'll ride her in whatever makes her happy. In general, she doesn't like too much movement. She likes simple, steady and straightforward. The rollers are annoying to her, just like the rings on that O ring annoyed her.