I decided to try to take him on the trail so that we could practice without having to keep turning around. Kai was good at first and then he decided he was going to lean big time. I yanked his head around and backed him up hard. Kai then offered a really nice, soft, fast and balanced back up.
We went to the outdoor arena so that I had a safety net in case he pulled the rope out of my hands.
We tried more zone 5 driving and Kai was pretty bracy at the walk. I decided to try to trot in case it would help him be softer and have less time to think about bracing. Mom filmed a video so that we could send it to Farrah (to get some help with this).
Kai surprisingly connected and was soft and relaxed. I thought we could go for a ride then. Kai was offering a relaxed level neck at the walk, so I decided to ask him to trot. Kai then did a very tense and quick trot anticipating that I would ask him to canter. I kept asking him to relax and stretch down and he would lower his head but then shoot it back up. Kai then decided that trotting quickly was not comfortable and offered a really nice and balanced canter transition. I decided to not correct him for cantering but to keep asking for the head to go down. Kai broke back into a trot and kept bobbing his head back up and tensing his back.
We played around with transitions and a relaxed head. Kai would relax his head down for an entire lap around the arena and I would change something and he would tense back up. I don't really think he was tense out of fear, I think he was tense which made him uncomfortable which made him more tense. I need to help him find balance and comfort within his gaits.
I even jumped him over some cavaletti. He jumped two and then balked at the third a few times but I worked him through it and he could jump all three. I was not in the perfect jumping position but I made sure I was very light on Kai's back and that I was balanced. We then went back to trotting and working on his head set.
Kai was sweaty and working hard but I didn't feel him run out of gas at all. I had ridden him a few weeks ago and he was so tired and I felt his energy sort of die under me. I was proud of how easily he could handle this much trotting and cantering in one go!
I then tried some bridleless. I wanted to try to ask him to canter in a circle instead of going on the rail like before. Kai was bracing and he was ignoring my leg so I bumped him harder and harder. I felt Kai ball up underneath me so I prepared myself for a buck. He gave a small buck so I dismounted and backed him up faster and harder than ever. I threw his halter back on and jumped back on his back. We cantered fast and hard and I made him respect my leg and go in a circle. When he did a good one I walked to cool him off while doing serpentines directing him with only my leg. We were both exhausted but Kai was soft and respectful.
I was pretty excited how fast his breathing got back to normal! I think he is really getting fitter which opens a lot of doors for us! We have not previously been able to work on these things because Kai would get too tired. But this time he had enough energy for me to really work through!
I cooled him out and put him back in the paddock with some treats.
Today was not an easy session, but it was full of progress. I feel a lot more confident in how much I can push him and in my ability to correct him and help him.