Knowing that too much arena time frustrates him, I've been working him only three days a week with turn out on the days that I don't ride. Even so, our ride on Saturday felt like an exercise in frustration. He started out hollow, resistant, and braced, which is normal. I have learned not to ask for any kind of roundness until he is moving willingly forward.
Once the gas pedal was working, I shortened the reins and started asking him to move onto my outside rein. His answer? An emphatic, no. I couldn't get him off my inside left leg to save my life. He wouldn't/couldn't let go through his poll or jaw either.
I did leg yields, turns on the forehand, and even some counter flexing. He finally started spooking hard, his go-to evasive maneuver. I went to my go-to: more of the same. Nothing was working.
In an effort to get something good accomplished, I went back to the canter; I had let him do a big canter earlier in the ride in the hope that it might loosen him up. For this canter sequence, I did shallow loops along each long side. While they weren't as good as we've done, he did begin to soften his left side.
We finished up still feeling like friends. I started to take the whole thing personally, but then remembered that he isn't trying to piss me off. Something was just off. Tomorrow is another day and another chance to capture that feeling of partnership.