Finally got back out for a lesson last night. Licorice was not happy to have his dinner interrupted and tried to hide in the corner of his stall with his head buried in hay. I found him anyway.
We did lots of good trot work, trying to maintain even contact in both reins. It's nice that he's going forward. BUT (there's always a but isn't there?) Licorice has a new trick up his sleeve.
When Licorice canters, he likes to go along the rail in a long, flat frame. His canter has no jump and he doesn't do much in the way of steering. At the clinic, we started working on getting more jump and making sure I'm steering.
At my lesson, we were trying to do some spiral in using the outside rein and leg at the canter. Licorice was barreling around the circle while I ineffectively tried to half halt using my outside rein. There were two other horses in my lesson AND a young horse being lunged. Our arena is NOT big (70x120) and Licorice is not balanced or very adjustable at the canter. So at one point, there was no way for us to continue trying to circle so we headed down the long side.
Licorice felt like this would be a good time to show me his racing skills. He barreled down the long side like he was headed towards a cross country jump. He took the bit firmly and went for it. It wasn't scary, just flat and fast. I tried to half halt by sitting up straight and engaging my core. He flew around the corner and headed to the next long side. It wasn't a complete runaway, but he was large and in charge. I sat deep and used a strong half halt on my outside rein. Instead of slowing his canter, he fell into his speediest trot complete with hollow back and dragging hind legs. Ugh.
I relaxed my arms and took a few deep breaths and within a few strides we were back to a lovely working trot. Then it was back to canter. We managed to get a reasonable few strides in canter on the circle, but again, it suddenly got crowded and I had to take the long side. It was like a racehorse seeing the finish line. For Licorice, the long side on the rail smelled like freedom and he was going to go for it. This time, my half halt got him into his awful trot much faster.
We weren't able to completely work out the problem. Though I was able to consistently bring him back to a trot and I got much quicker about getting him back to a good trot, I was not able to get his canter back to me. I know a big problem is that my insides turn to marshmallow when we canter. I'm trying so hard not to be stiff in my legs and butt that I just sort of slump there.
Today, I'm going to try to find the happy medium between relaxed and effective and useful.
Licorice was steaming and dripping sweat when we were done, but that was perfect because I got to try on his new cooler! He's so handsome.