I really need to go fox hunting again. That ride helped me learn a lot about how Sydney works. It also gave me the opportunity to work on ratability, which is a determiner of success in the endurance world. In many ways, ratability is akin to rhythm; I tell you how fast to go, and you do it.
I also learned that I want to try out a firmer bit for a while. If he's not going to show (in the near future), I don't have to stick with a show legal bit. I want to try something that he can't blast through when he's anxious about the work we're doing. Frankly, I need some whoa! on that horse when I use the brake pedal. When he's relaxed, a deep exhale on my part is sufficient to get a downward transition. When he has checked out mentally, my bit might as well be a piece of dental floss in his mouth.
So all of this was going through my head during our ride yesterday. With the arena being well soaked from last week's rain, I was able to ride more freely at both ends without fighting the dust and uneven footing. The C end of the arena, which is farthest from the barn, has historically been where we have trouble. And as luck would have it, the neighbor was doing some work down there behind his RV and under the scary tree. I actually appreciated the opportunity to work through the noise.
Almost immediately, Sydney pulled his (now predictable) duck to the inside, whirl, and bolt. Even though I was hauling on those reins, I still had to ram him into the fence to get a stop. Once I pulled him off the fence, I dug my inside heel into his side and made him step, step, step, step away with his inside hind. And then I put him back to work.
Don't get me wrong. I wasn't beating up on him, but I sure as heck wasn't going to put up with him ignoring my aids (any longer). I demanded an inside bend at a rhythm that I chose. I am finally seeing that at least some of his "anxiety" stems from an I-don't-wanna attitude. I don't want to ride him with an adversarial approach, but I think he needs me to be a much stricter rider.
Surprisingly, or maybe not, I got several right lead canters and then some. I was able to ride the left lead canter in a square while really asking him to rock back and lighten his front end. To the right, I was able to canter 15-meter circles while really pushing his inside hind deep. The canter work is improving tremendously. We just need to get the right lead departure under control.
I'll see what I get today!