I asked him to bring his head down at a stand still and then at the walk. Kai was resisting and bracing on the pressure but I kept on asking until he could relax. Then we repeated the same process a the trot. Kai eventually found the sweet spot and he kept his head level with the withers.
I thought we could take it a step further and teach him to give his nose. I began with the easiest movement, the back up, and kept asking him until he gave his nose in as well as backed up. Then I put his bum in the corner and practiced asking him to give that way. Then I tied the lead line into reins and put contact on them. Then we walked at stick to me while holding pressure on his nose. It was hard for me to keep a steady feel so I held on to the saddle. Kai was very confused and he did not know what to do with the pressure for three laps around the arena. Then after thinking hard about it he gave to the pressure just a little bit. I released and praised him. Kai had a big lick and chew and gave his nose almost right away when I asked him again.
Soon he understood that he could give his nose instead of always stopping. We practiced a relaxed stop and back up and even some tiny trot steps on the ground. I then mounted up and asked him to give his nose the exact same way as I did on the ground.
Kai stood still and hesitated before giving his nose. I gave him a cookie and lots of praise so he knew he did the right thing. Soon we were walking around the rail while keeping a very light contact. We practiced stopping and backing up without getting tense. I dismounted to give him a little break.
I thought that we could play with the bridle for a little. I borrowed Kaila's because I left my bit at home as I did not expect to be needing it. I made sure Kai was comfortable with it before asking him to reach his nose in the head stall. Soon Kai was thinking about putting his nose in the head stall and I put the bridle away. This is meant to prime him a little for the next time we play with it. I like to plant little idea seeds in his head when introducing something new. This sets us up for success when we do it the next time. I notice that he really gets new things a lot faster if I planted those seeds before.
I mounted again and we did some more flexion. Kai was over-bending in the beginning but I let him get away with it for the first time because he didn't know the sweet spot yet. However I did discourage it by giving little bumps upwards on the reins when he was over-flexing. He wasn't trying to avoid contact, he really thought that I wanted him to do it this way. I just slowly guided him to the sweet spot and he was already doing less over-flexing.
I then untacked him and put the cooler on. I let him loose so that he could go roll if he wanted to. He walked around and then came to hang out with me. I squeezed some orange juice on the mounting block so that he could lick it for an extra special treat. Kai really likes orange juice!
When Mom came I jumped on him again to show her and Kaila how he learned to flex. What a good boy!