Red has had some serious schooling in the last week and a half. And I'm sometimes amazed at his progress, and sometimes he's his same ol' self.
But I'm figuring out more things about him and figuring out how to fix some of his problems.
I didn't really realize it (suppose that's what happens when you ride by yourself 99% of the time and get stuck in the same trends), but he was really fighting his snaffle bit and not staying soft in the bridle. So we're trying a few new things before we get back to the snaffle.
I used a Jr. Cowhorse twisted wire mouthpiece on him for 2 rides. THAT got his attention. My hands didn't have to do more than a feather light touch for a response. It was nice! But I don't want to leave him in that bit quite yet. I just wanted to use it as a "wake up call". I just got my German martingale on Monday, which I want to use on him because when he is 1) nervous 2) scared 3) looking at something else more important in the distance, his head goes sky high. I paired the martingale with a wonder bit smooth mouth, and he does very nicely of giving his head vertically and sideways (although I am not asking him to hold it yet for a length of time .... baby steps.....).
So that's working much better. Again, I don't want to leave him in it permanently, but I think we will stick with it for a while.
The other thing that I figured out, at least at this point, is he's gotta be tired before he'll go along on a loose rein without me having to bother him to slow down. (and even then, he still might want to go-go-go, even though he's dog tired). He's got SO much "go" and so much energy. I hope I don't always have to tire him down to get him to relax, but it'll work for now. And maybe, that's just how he is. Time will tell.
I've had him off the barrel pattern for at least 2 weeks now, but I tried it again last night because things were going so well. I had my poles and barrels set up in the dirt area we do riding in. I probably worked him for a good 15 to 20 minutes of trotting and galloping doing relaxed circles, figure 8's, serpentines, and simple ovals around the area. I might have used a barrel or a pole as a turning obstacle, but we weren't doing the patterns. When he was going nice and relaxed on a loose rein, I tried the pattern at a trot. He bended nicely, he stayed relaxed, and listened very well. I took him through the poles too at a trot, and he did great. Much better than the videos I have from our practice 2 weeks ago where I've got to hang on his mouth to keep him from going faster, and he made the turns on the fore, and wasn't bending his body around the turn.
But I've got to wear off some of his energy to get to that point. I guess that's okay for now. It's a point of improvement on his listening skills so I'll take it!