I went out to play tonight after it cooled down a bit. Saddled Renegade up and did a short warm up online asking for one foot at a time over a log, specifically his right hind over the log while his left hind remained on the other side; he was connected and really "got" it after about 5 minutes so I quit and waited. It took about 4 minutes and he began to really lick and chew; when he finished we left the log and did some circles at trot and canter with a couple of changes of direction thrown in just to see where we are. The first change in each direction was tough as he had "forward" on his mind. I just persisted and he finally looked to me for direction so I brought him in...more licking and chewing. Sent him back out and change of direction was much nicer and easier.
Next up was traveling circles at trot and canter and they went well. I was purposely doing circles to get his impulsion going for riding which we did next. We rode 20 and 10 meter circles and I played with bending my ribs to help Renegade bend his and it worked beautifully!! Normally he's stiff when going in circles to the right but tonight he was able to maintain nice circles without many corrections. Hummmm...maybe it was me all along???!! We did 8 circles to the right and 8 to the left, bend was equally good on both sides, trot was VERY nice in both directions, very even and rhythmic, very easy to post to and not at all impulsive but relaxed. 10 meter and 20 meter circles were equally nice.
I also played with isolating the fq and hq that I learned in the workshop with Jerry Williams, 3* Parelli Professional, earlier this month. Renegade remembered our practice sessions with this very well. I lightly picked up the reins just until I made contact, kept the reins even so Renegade could keep his head and neck straight, and asked him to move his fq. He did it beautifully keeping his hind feet still and stepping over in the front. We did 180 degrees in 4 steps, rested a moment, then did 180 degrees back the other direction. I definitely had to give him a rest and reward after that; he was so soft, light, and willing and waited for direction without assuming what we were doing.
Since Renegade did sooo well on the circles, and that's probably his least favorite thing to do, we went out into the pasture to ride some straight lines doing FTR. The pasture has some trees and there were a few low hanging branches so I used transitions to ride from one low hanging branch to the next breaking the low hanging branches off so we could go through without me getting slapped by them. It was a fun way to put principles to purpose and Renegade caught on really quick to that game!! Once we had a clear path, we played the bow tie pattern. There is a couple of groups of trees that substitute nicely for a barrel so I used those to come around then back to the rail and into a canter. The third time around the trees and Renegade was offering the canter as we came back to rail and maintained it for 10 strides. It was sooo fantastic he offered... and I know it was all him. I sometimes feel when we're cantering that I'm wobbling around like a sack of potatoes up there!! Poor guy, he's trying so hard and I'm getting in his way...I've got to work on getting better at the canter so I can stay out of his way. Unfortunately, the only way I know how to do that is practice, practice, practice. Hopefully Renegade will be as patient with me learning to canter as he was when I was learning to trot!! I decided after his wonderful canter offering, it was time to stop and reward him by going back to the mounting block so I could get off. I unsaddled Renegade and spent some undemanding time with him while he grazed.
I've been reflecting back on how difficult some of these things have been for us in the recent past and trying to figure out just what has changed that now makes everything so much easier. I think for one thing, I'm getting more confident in what I'm doing because I feel like I know what I'm doing, what I'm asking for, and what it should look like. I'm also being more particular but not being critical, just patiently persisting with the proper attitude until we get it then rewarding, rewarding, rewarding with his favorite things: rest and food (he gets to graze for a few minutes). I've also slowed things down and go back to basics if we're having trouble with something and I'm also concentrating on breaking things down into their parts (finally, I'm getting this one...whew!!) to make everything really simple. That helps both of us.
I keep thinking back to where we started 5 years ago when Renegade would charge me with mouth open, was very aggressive, had no use for people, reared, bucked, kicked, would run over the top of anyone in his way, would bite at the drop of a hat, didn't want to be caught and really was unrideable. The change is dramatic...the more confident I become, the less dominating he becomes and we're developing a real partnership. Renegade has been a great teacher and considering me being such a novice, he really has been patient with me in the last few years while I got up to speed. I think he's breathing a sigh of relief that I'm finally getting some horse sense!!