Kai and I began the session by doing liberty stick to me and some trot and canter draws. I asked Kai to bow and let go off his leg while he was down and he didn’t bounce up right away, like he used to. I want to teach Kai to stay down without me holding his foot and eventually to go down on his own without my help.
I then asked him to smile for a longer period of time. My goal is to be able to ask Kai to smile from 22' away.
I then asked him to bow with both front legs extended. This stretches his legs and strengthens his core. Next we hung out together for a little. Sometimes it is nice to spend some time together without asking Kai to do anything.
I asked him on the circle at the trot. I decided to push my luck and ask him to canter. Kai used to leave when I asked him to canter at liberty but today he decided to stay. He didn't maintain gait but he made the transition and did not even think about leaving. I knew I couldn't be too picky. I needed to "expect a lot, accept a little and reward often" (Pat Parelli) to keep Kai motivated. I invited him in and gave him cookies every couple of circles.
I then decided to go for a little ride. I tied the lead rope into reins and then hopped on. I challenged Kai to a game of "don't make me use the reins!" I asked him for lateral flexion by tapping the side of his neck to tell him to flex and then gave him a cookie when he did. Then we practiced yields. Kai tends to go forward instead of yielding when I put my leg on.
Kai was doing lovely FQ yields and after a little bit of work he was yielding his HQ. I then asked him to go on the rail and when he fell to the inside I directed him back with my leg. In the past, when I used to put my leg on he would speed up and ignore my energy. Now he simply moved away from the pressure. I discovered that he responded to my hand movements even if I was not holding the reins. I thought we could practice this hand gesture steering because it will be useful when I am riding with a neck rope and even when I teach him to steer by his mane.
I was thinking that if I am teaching him to do lead by the tail and lead by the mane, why not do lead by the mane while riding? I could eventually ask him to turn with his mane!
We did some turns and trot to halt to back up transitions. We quickly reviewed the yields and backing up with the leg before dismounting.
I then played around with asking Kai to do some flying lead changes. Kai was very light and did his best but he was having a little trouble with changing leads in the back legs. I still rewarded him for being so light. We ended the session on a good change.
I later messaged Marsha and she gave me some tips on how to help Kai change in the back legs as well.