I’m a pretty busy person without a lot of time to do this and I apologize it got longer than I anticipated, I just like to explain why I'm suggesting what I am. I’d say for the most part you are doing a solid job of bringing him back into work, it takes time to develop the musculature but I find once the coordination is there it comes back pretty quickly. You’re doing a good job.
I agree with SaraM on a lot of it. He could be more forward, he needs to articulate his hind legs more and bring them underneath his body. Even in these early stages of conditioning it is better to ask for better quality work than quantity of work. I also would not forget the importance of riding the walk well. A lot of riders over look the walk, which I think is strange because the walk is IMO one of the most important gaits as it is easier to correct and pick up on various things happening than at the trot and canter, as it is a 4 beat gait you distinctly feel every leg in action and can correct it. A lot of riders lose the energy in the walk and quit riding but keep riding the walk (don't take a break because you are walking) and see how much it improves your trot and canter. It is also a great gait to test yourself and play with shoulder control, control of the haunches, how much bend you can get in a leg yield? how little can you do to get him to lengthen his stride? how little to shorten his stride? How little can I change my position to influence his balance yet how much to be effective? Those are a sample of the kinds of questions to ask yourself every ride and in every gait.
He appears stiffer traveling right and more supple traveling left but he has a tendency to go out through his right shoulder. This is a pretty normal crookedness, he just need to emphasize more bend through the rib cage and shoulders going right and traveling left you need to focus more on keeping that right or outside shoulder in line with the rest of his body (maybe add some shoulder fore this direction). Both directions I would like to see more bend through the rib cage to improve his balance, suppleness and straightness. I would definitely incorporate some leg yielding into your circles and while preparing your changes of direction to help with the bend to help him maintain his balance. Really pay attention to moving his shoulders through the changes of direction and to control his bend in the circles. Something I do with horses who struggle or don’t know how to move their shoulders is roll backs (this also loosens their shoulders and makes them more supple, plus more reactive to your thigh, knee and outside rein).
When traveling left especially because he likes to go out through his outside shoulder I would look over your outside shoulder (not your inside) which you have a tendency to do and this makes you crooked. Look over your outside shoulder to correct your position and help you ride a more accurate circle or figure (this also helps in leg yields). This may seem like a silly trick but it will help you align your shoulders and hips. I’d also play with how much you can influence his balance and move him based on how much weight you put into your inside or outside stirrup, see how much you can steer him just using your position and the weight in your seat bones. This doesn’t have to be perfect, just something to think about.
I agree with SaraM on adding more complicated figures. Challenge both of you, it is not too much to ask for some lateral work or to stay committed to your figures. Really pay attention to your circles and changes of direction to direct his balance. Leg yield a few steps out while on the circle and imagine his inside hind leg jumping into your outside rein as you capture it with your outside rein. If he falls through the outside shoulder use your knee and outside rein to direct his shoulder back in line.
The other thing is stay committed to your figures, if you’re going to do a circle, do a circle so you can get the most from the exercise and don’t care if it is going exactly as you want it to or not, ride the circle. I’m big about preparing for figures and paying attention to the shape, size and quality of your circles, that means leg yielding a few steps to maintain bend through the circle, paying attention to the position of the shoulders, maybe ride some shoulder fore and in to get the bend or exaggerate the bend a few strides.
Overall I have a nice impression and like what I see. You’re a pretty rider, I can tell you are still getting back into it but you’re on the right path you should be pleased with you both. He’s a cute horse and you seem to suit each other well.
Last edited by DanteDressageNerd; 06-16-2015 at 05:41 PM.