I've been working diligently on this halt RIGHT NOW thing. On Sunday, Sydney gave me a rear, buck, whirl-free ride! And it wasn't by luck. He was really thinking about what I was asking for, and he decided to acquiesce. I don't know if he thought it would simply be in his best interest (he's not a fan of the small circle), or if he just realized that my request was quite doable and maybe even easy.
I started out like I always do: some work at the walk, some warm up trotting where I continue to work on my up/up/down exercise (absolutely love that thing), and then some quick trot work to both directions. And then I sat quietly and cued for a right lead canter which Sydney offered with no fuss. We schooled that for a minute or two, returned to trot, and then schooled the left lead canter.
We took a walk break and went back to tracking right at the walk. This is where he normally starts to get tense. It's as though he realizes the warm up is over and the "real" work is about to begin. I hope he can let go of that notion soon since in my mind we've been working since I climbed aboard.
He wanted to be tense and rush into the trot, but I insisted he just walk. I kept my seat relaxed and resisted anything other than a trot. As I felt him relax, I started thinking about a trot, but I didn't ask for it. Little by little, he started to offer a relaxed trot. He was really listening to me and trying to do what he thought I wanted.
Once we were trotting again, I had to really focus on maintaining the rhythm as he wanted to rush the circle and fall in. I gave him a warning (half halt!) and he slowed his rhythm. We continued on and each time he thought about falling in or rushing, I warned him with my outside rein that a consequence was coming: either halt RIGHT NOW, or do a small circle.
He heard me. I could see him flick an ear at me and slow his pace. After we had done several circles without the need for a tiny circle or a hard halt, I asked him for a quiet, halt RIGHT NOW and got it. I sat there for a moment praising the heck out of him and hopped off. That was the first ride in I don't know how long that we have cantered both directions without a fuss and had no rearing, bucking, whirling, spinning, diving in, or bolting off.
We are definitely getting somewhere good!