As soon as I step up on the mounting block, I set my timer. I watch it carefully to make sure we stand there at least thirty seconds, and usually more. I need Izzy to know that standing around quietly is a really good thing. As soon as he does stand relatively quietly without too much fidgeting, I ask him to walk forward. I am not torturing him by making him stand perfectly still, but he needs to wait for me to give the forward cue. And really, he's getting it.
We've been starting to the left to be consistent. Speedy is easily bored and needs each ride to be new and different, but Izzy seems to appreciate the monotony of knowing the routine.
I find it amazing how many small nuances are involved in keeping a rhythm. Each circle has a "downhill" side where he wants to pick up speed, and then there's the "uphill" side where he slows down. My arena is flat however, so how he decided where the hill is remains a mystery!
My goals are pretty simple right now. I just want a rhythmic trot in a round circle with acceptance of the bit. To me, that means stay trotting at the speed that I asked for in the place where I asked for it, and keep your head quiet. That's a super simplified way of explaining it, but JL reminds me that for Izzy, everything needs to be crystal clear.
When I feel him approaching the downhill part of the circle, I sit taller and resist his motion with my seat. If he ignores that, which doesn't happen too often, I send him sideways into my outside rein and release the inside rein when he softens.
Trotting a baby horse around in a circle might seem like such a simple task, but I am determined to get this part of his training as perfect as possible before we work on changes of direction. I want a good half halt to be embedded in his thinking, and I want him truly listening to my seat aids. We're in no hurry. So while it might look like we're just doofusing around and around, I am really riding every single footfall and trying to make it as perfect as possible.
We spiral out much more quickly, usually back to the 20-meter diameter within one circle. This way it's more of a leg yield. I like the spiral in because it really shows me if I have control of his shoulders. As my circle gets smaller, I also ask him to slow down with my seat since it gets harder and harder to make the circle.
It's been a lot of fun teaching him to accept the contact because he is already a hundred times lighter than Sydney or Speedy. He's finding the "sweet spot" much more quickly than they did. While riding him, I am finding many moments where he is relaxed, maintaining a rhythm, and accepting the contact with a lovely connection.
Of course, there are even more moments where his head is in twenty different places as he's groaning through a tantrum while he trips and stumbles because he's not watching where he's going. Even with all of that, he is still fun to ride because in the next stride, we've pulled it all together again.