I don't have my new saddle yet (It hasn't even shipped) but I decided to hop on bareback again today (after a nice back massage and carrot stretches). I have been working out at the gym on the ab/core machines and shoulder blades, etc and I think that has helped but I digress... this is how it went.
After a little warm up I started walking around and giving him squeezes and working on "closing the door" without fully restraining him. I found a place where I could easily squeeze and feel him move forward and there would be a moment of added tension to the bridle and then a sudden lightness and his head would drop...yet I had enough contact that I could still feel him licking the bit through the reins. At the same time his back would spread out and he felt like he blew himself up like a balloon...I imagine it would be the same feeling as if you were on a pilates ball and it suddenly was blown up about 5 times bigger than at should...his sides met my calves and it was easy to rest my calves on him.
Of course it was hit or miss, there were a few times that he would lunge forward, then try to rip the reins from my hands but after a while I found the balance of what was too much rein and not enough.
So I tried it at a trot. Well, all I got was lunging forward, fighting to canter. I just couldn't find the same balance as at the walk. So I quit and moved on to an activity he likes...leg yields. Well, he likes them once he realizes that is what you are asking...before he realizes you are giving different aids he tries to lunge forward. I got a few sloppy ones, he was acting fresh. The coach had left a line of cones up the center of the arena so I started leg yielding him back and forth through these and THAT is when it happened again. After 2 paces, when I turned him around for the third, it was as if he took a deep breath, relaxed his body, relaxed his jaw...and blew himself up like that balloon again. He trotted strongly however not rushy, not pushing or fighting the bit but allowing the super light contact with my hands as we went toward the cones and then became very responsive to the aids to leg yield.
It went three strides left, three strides right, three strides left, three strides right with barely a twitch of rein and a slight strengthening of pressure from my leg pushing him over. He licked his bit, flapped his jaw and was the lightest in my hands that he has ever been. It allowed me to sit up taller, concentrate on my posture and then he got even better with his rhythm, length of stride between cones, timing and his full attention was on me just waiting for that subtle hint that it was time to switch direction. At the ends he would give me a well balanced 10m circle with the same cadence an pricked his ears to those cones again.
Does this sound even remotely like what he should feel like when he is working properly? And if so, where do we go from here. Any ideas or suggestions on exercises to transfer this into trots without leg yields or cones? Once I leave the cones, after a few times around the arena he decides to revert back so we have to go back to leg yielding through cones...
Thank you for your suggestions...or for telling me something doesn't' sound right, if that is how you feel.