He was obviously trying to get to the opposite side of the hay bale so that I couldn't reach him. I ran around the hay and the other horses who were still eating to block him from reaching the hay. He sassily tossed his mane and ran the other way. Then he slowed to a walk and started to carefully consider how he could outsmart me.
He tried stopping and walking away before darting back and a couple of other things. Soon he came and caught me but he still had a cheeky look on his face. I rubbed him and checked his legs so he knew I was not in any hurry. Then we even started to walk away from the gate. Kai was intrigued. Then he made a split decision to take off as fast as he could go. Unfortunately for him it wasn't fast enough and I tagged him as hard as I could on his bum.
Kai galloped two or three strides and then, as he made a sharp turn (towards the hay lol) he slipped on the ice under the snow and fell flat on his butt. A split second after he fell I fell down as well. Kai jumped up and trotted to the hay while I dusted the snow off my hands and knees and ran to keep him from getting a release. Then Kai connected and trotted over to catch me. I haltered him and gave him a cookie. I love to play catching game! It is very fun when the horse is not fearful and both of us are playing.
Kai licked and chewed and we went to the inside arena. I set up a single barrel away from the wall so we could practice seeking the jump. We have not done this in a long time and I was excited to see what Kai would do. He tried to go around once so I backed him up and sent him again. Kai jumped but a little sideways. I told him he was a good boy for trying but did not bring him in. Instead I sent him again and Kai jumped perfectly! He was light, willing, had a smile in the rope, and he didn't hit the barrel with his hind legs. I gave him a rest and a cookie before asking him to jump the other way. When he did I made a huge fuss over him and gave him more cookies.
Next, I asked him to approach the jump at a trot in each direction and then at a canter. I brought him in after every jump so that when we do this at liberty the first thing he thinks about will be to connect and come back to me. Kai sometimes disconnects after jumping at liberty so I think this is a good default for him to have.
Next we worked on a relaxed canter for a short while. I followed him on the circle because I just began to teach him to slow down. He is beginning to relax and fall into a rhythm but I sometimes need to remind him.
We had to leave the indoor because there was going to be a lesson. So I groomed Kai outside and tacked him up. I put my western pad under the bareback pad because I think that Kai likes the extra support for longer rides. I did not use the saddle today because I am much more comfortable and used to riding bareback and I wanted to focus the ride on teaching Kai rather than getting used to the saddle.
When we got to the arena we found that the footing was only good for walking so we got his lateral flexion extra extra good because we could practice that while standing.
He was always stiff on one side when I asked him for flexion. Almost every single time I ride I need to ask him repeatedly on one side to get it as soft as the other. One neat thing that I discovered is that teaching him vertical flexion helped him with his stiff side so much! It sort of gave him a way to flex in between the left flex and the right flex. For example he used to flex really soft to the left and then when I asked him to straighten his head he would become stiff to the right, and if I worked on the right side to get that soft he would stiffen on the left.
It would usually take a few corrections before he was soft both ways so we could continue. Today, however he was super soft right away. I only gave him a few bumps. It felt great to feel how soft an light and giving he could be both ways.
We then walked all around the arena to warm up and get moving and also to check the footing to see if it was any better at the other end of the arena. Turns out it was a little worse. So we headed back the other way working on vertical flexion. Kai wanted to impersonate a giraffe and stare at the other horses when they started goofing around but he quickly connected and found the sweet spot, keeping his head at withers level. I could feel his back relax under me.
Kai had the same problem with circles, he would always be soft left and not right. He was also more bracy the faster we went. It took a little while but he soon softened both ways and it felt wonderful, Kai was beginning to find relaxation and harmony on the bend. Then we worked on a soft change of bend which he understood for the first time. By then the lesson in the indoor arena was over so I dismounted and Kai and I trotted to the indoor.
I then mounted again and we played follow the rail working on soft vertical flexion and finding the sweet spot in relaxation and a soft back. Kai is discovering that carrying me is much more comfortable when he relaxes and settles into a rhythm. We also played a bit with downward transitions.
When Kai was feeling very good I decided that I could do some rider exercises while he trotted. I set the reins down and started to rotate my arms in backward circles then forward circles and then also just the inside arm and then just the outside. I also put both hands on my helmet and folded them and did all the things I used to do on the lunge line with my old instructor. I steered Kai in a giant figure eight to practice changing directions for me and to practice steering with legs for Kai.
It feels good for me as a rider to do these movements. I feel immediately more balanced. It helps me find the right movement with my core and helps me so much. I used to only trust Kai to do this at the walk and it was a breakthrough to do this at the trot. I can't wait until he is good enough that I can trust him for this at the canter.
I then pulled up the crash test dummy I made for Kaila on Kai's back. I draped "Caramba" over Kai's withers and asked him to walk forward and even trot a little. As I was putting Caramba down his leg caught on Kai's rein so Kai was giving to the pressure and very quickly backing up until I unhooked the dummy. I told Kai he was good and we carried on with our ride.
Then Kai did the most amazing thing! He did the smoothest transition into a trot ever! And when I asked him to slow down to a walk he did a perfect and relaxed transition.
Kai had some trouble going from trot to walk because he always stopped dead. This was because he used to ignore my cues to stop so I corrected him pretty hard. Now, the moment he feels / thinks I need him to stop he stops right away. This made it hard for him to transition into a walk without stopping. I was very happy with him so I dropped the reins and we walked a few laps to cool off before dismounting.
I put his cooler on and tied him in the corner because there was another lesson in the indoor. As Kai was in the corner I thought I could teach him hind leg lifts to help him strengthen his HQ. I took a little while with the tickler on the end of the stick and taught Kai to lift his foot when I touched it. Then I quickly progressed to keeping asking him until he stopped stomping his foot down and was setting it down gently. I soon required him to hold it up for a few seconds before setting it down. Kai understood on his right hind leg but not his left. I quit asking when he held it up a bit longer.
Before putting him back in the paddock I allowed him to roll because I knew he wanted to. As he was rolling I started feeding him bits of apple just before he got up. I lured him back on his side with the apple and slowly fed him all of it while he was on his side. Kai was thoughtfully chewing the apple while assessing the situation. When the apple was done I moved my energy up to tell him he could get up now. After that he was completely done so I put him back in the paddock.