First, I want to thank my blogger friends for their suggestions regarding my current mounting block issues with Gem. I only see Gem 2-3 times a week, so it may take longer to correct this problem. The couple of days in between sessions seems to erase his memory banks and we have to start again. :-) I am trying a combo of the suggestions that you guys provided and will let you know what finally works.
Well, the weather is changing. I actually like Fall the best out of all the seasons when it comes to riding. It's still warmish and dry, fewer bugs and the colours are amazing. Of course a change in season means a change in riding fashion! I love being able to layer clothing to accommodate the weather. In the summer, all you can do is melt into your t-shirt, and believe me when I say that the wet t-shirt look is not a good one for me. :-)
With the change in seasons, comes a change in attitude. I find that Gem is a little more energized. The stifling heat that we had here during the previous few months seemed to zap the energy of every living thing. Now that it's cooler, Gem is revitalized and frankly, so am I.
LA is still riding Gem once a week and I think I will continue with this. He gets a decent workout with her, which he doesn't get from me...yet. :-) She does not ride him on one particular day; it's whenever her schedule allows during the week. LA has been concentrating on laterals to help with his flexibility and working at having him release the bit instead of pulling on it. I have noticed a big difference these two areas; he is much more responsive to my leg and he is better at softening on the bit (not sure if that's the right terminology!) when I ask. He continues to bend inside rather than outside when going around the paddock, but it's not as frequent. He now gets a nice foam around his lips when we are working.
Two areas that I still have problems with are the extended trot and loping. I just can't get him into an extended trot when I ask. I can only apply leg pressure and kiss the air for so long! It's like he knows that if he just holds out a little longer, I will collapse...which I do. I know he can do it because regularly we end up doing an extended trot (which apparently looks quite beautiful!) when I am trying to get him to lope! Good grief.
LA has mentioned that she still has to push him to lope. It seems that he just doesn't like loping. Well, let me clarify; he doesn't like loping when someone is ON him. I have a goal of being able to lope around the arena twice, balanced and with my butt in the saddle. May not sound like much to most of you experienced riders, but it's a big deal to me. :-) I will be practicing loping over the next while, so Gem will just have to deal with it.
I actually can tell when LA has ridden Gem by his attitude towards me. If she has ridden Gem the day before I see him, he is pushy with me. It's like he takes out his grumpiness from being made to work by LA out on me! He doesn't come when I call him, he's mouthy, he shakes his head in the cross-ties, he pulls his feet away from me when I am cleaning them and there's a lot of tail swishing going on. What the heck??? I worked yesterday! This is torture! Leave me alone! If LA has not ridden him the day before I see him, he's a pussy cat. He comes to me, he stands quietly, he leans into my hand when I scratch is neck and ears, he almost starts to doze off in the cross-ties and when we are riding, he's almost lighter (it's hard to explain).
I think part of his snarky attitude could be that he is a little sore from his workout with LA. I know she is tougher on him than I am. LA makes him work and doesn't take any of his crap. LA reminds me regularly that he only has to work 4 hours a week and when he's with me (or her), he should be focused on working. I know I let him get away with a lot.
Me: I am cuing you to lope, please.
Me: Please, I want you to lope.
Gem: Forget it. I will trot, but I won't lope.
Me: But I really need to learn how to do this.
Gem: I don't care actually. I have tried loping in the past, and don't like it.
Gem: No, I would rather stand in the middle with my friends and that is where I am heading NOW.
Me: OK. We can try loping another day. Sigh.
I am getting better at not taking NO for an answer, but it is a work in progress. As my confidence level increases, I hope that his respect for me does, too. It's getting better. Last night was actually a great lesson when it came to boosting my confidence. In amongst all the false starts and inconsistent runs, there were a few highlights. I actually got Gem to lope from a standing position, not once but twice! I was able to change from an incorrect lead to the correct one while we were moving! I lost the reins at one point and although I wasn't able to steer him properly, I remained balanced and solid in my seat while I was trying to get my reins organized as we continued loping. I was able to get him to lope once around the paddock without him loosing momentum. I experienced Gem being on the correct lead in the front, but not in the back - the feeling of my brain banging against the top of my skull is not one that I want to experience any time soon! I was also told that my butt was in the saddle more often than not. :-) My classmates and LA were very complimentary and supportive.
So, listen up Gem.... It's going to happen. You can't avoid it. Don't look at me with those big brown eyes. I am not going to cave! We are going to nail the extended trot and we are going to lope around the arena..not once, but twice. The sooner you accept this, the better.
What was I thinking....?