And this photo shows how beautifully muscled up he's gotten with regular, good work - he's standing on an uphill slope here:
But the rest of the day was also very good - I was up at Heather's working with both boys. We did a ground work session with Pie - he's got the basic ideas. I had Heather work him first so I could watch what she did, and then I worked him. She had me work on looking for soft moments when he was pulling to the outside so I could offer him some softness. His right lead canter was really very nice - he struggled more on the left lead, starting out with cross canter and then having to correct with several large bucks - he was clearly frustrated by his inability to organize his legs. We were able to get some decent left lead canter transitions by my waiting for his trot to be soft and then asking.
Then I rode Drifter. We had a really wonderful work session. He softened right up for me in halt and back after a few moments of resistance - much better than Wednesday. Heather had me work on getting him to give a big walk, then a bigger, even more animated walk, while offering softness, without throwing away my reins, if he stretched down but maintaining enough contact to catch him immediately and redirect him down if he inverted and went up. The goal was to have such a big, engaged, soft walk that trot just flowed right out of it. After several interrupted "hops" where he tried to throw his head up, invert his back and thrown himself into trot - this is a really engrained, habitual behavior with him - he did some really nice walk/trot transitions, followed immediately by a very forward, engaged, stretching down, big trot. The trick was for me to interrupt the going up the instant it started to occur - if possible when he was just thinging about it and hadn't done it yet. After a rest break, I got two beautiful transitions out of the huge walk into trot, and some amazing, really big trot. Heather says his gaits are exceptional at both walk and trot (and canter is also pretty nice already - it tends to go with a good walk) - she said his free walk scores would have been very high. His back and barrel swings, and he's learning that he doesn't have to cramp up in front and can stretch his top line. The feel and quality of his gaits is amazing - he's starting to be everything I thought he could be. He's beginning to figure out that there's a more comfortable, soft way to move, and is starting to give up on his habitual, braced behaviors - I couldn't be more delighted!
It was an exceptionally fine day with horses!