So thinks Louie. And me. And it's my fault, it was a bad plan to start with and I should have recognised that. I think we're going to scratch the show tomorrow- it won't do either of us any good to bring him there and have a potentially bad experience, as much as I want to go and show under a light breed-loving judge at a light breed-friendly saddle club. . . I want to keep the show ring a happy place as it is currently. I have been thinking a lot about this cantering situation and how seemingly frustrated Louie has been acting the past few days. I'm not sure if it is because I'm pushing him a little harder than he's used to or if it's too hot, or if his days and nights are messed up (all week the horses have been on a reverse pasture schedule since it has been so hot during the day), or what. He has not been looking forward to nor enjoying his work the past few days. He backs up in the crossties when I bring the tack to him, doesn't open up his mouth and reach for the bit like he usually does so eagerly, and has had a sourpuss expression on his face. So I think I'm best off scaling back and going back to the basics with him. Someday Louie will need to learn to be pushed a little bit and accept the new challenge, but we can save that for another time. For the meanwhile, we need to "enjoy the ride" and we'll get there when we get there. Saddlebreds, I have learned, are very emotional and tend to be a little on the fragile side, so it is very important for them to be happy and enjoy their job, or it shows.
Today I went to work him, still planning to go to the show. We did our usual bitting rig lunge routine for about 5 minutes, he got is right lead, lots of praising, etc, then went in to get saddled as we have been. See now, if I were smart, I would have stopped after the bitting rig the past 2 days. But I'm not- so I saddled up and hopped on. Today, however, I decided I really didn't want to fight, or get mad, or give Louie much of an opportunity to disappoint me, so we only walked and trotted. NO cantering. Mister "go mo' faster" needs to get back to the game plan of trotting at my speed, and we did a decent job of this today working on walk/trot/halt transitions and speeding up/slowing down at both gaits. Throw in a few serpentines and reverses and that is a pretty nice workout. Well, while that workout would have been fabulous any other time, today Louie wasn't so happy with it. He of course was mad at me for working him so hard the past few days, concentrating and pushing so hard for this show, and he was showing me what he thought of it- by cocking his head to the side, chewing/pulling/grinding the bit, and not being respectful in general. I can't blame him, but at least he didn't do anything stupid or dangerous.
So after just a few minutes in the arena I could see he wasn't happy, so we headed out to pasture for a change of scenery and to relax a little bit. He hasn't worked out there for probably a month since the grass is so long. We walked around, and while he seemed brighter, that eventually disappeared when I asked him to trot 2 laps around the pasture. Still not happy, I decided, okay, we're going to go for a walk down the road, because I REALLY want to end on a good, happy note. So we headed down the road for a nice little walk (about 3-4 blocks) on a beautiful day and Louie seemed to brighten up a bit more. Lots of pets and praising and telling him how good he was and reassuring him that everything is going to be okay between us, and he seemed a little better by the time we got home. When we got home, I gave him lots of pets, told him how much I loved him and showed it with a hug, a few kisses, a few treats, a little massage, hose bath, lunch by the trailer, more lunch and fresh cold water in his nicely cleaned out stall. . . man, whether he knows it or not, he is living the life. ..
Since that trail ride, we're starting fresh. New plan- spending some fun time together with shorter, more varied workouts that will hopefully brighten and refresh his attitude. I do believe that most people go through rough patches with their horses, and we just had one in March/April, but we recovered from that pretty well, now it's time to bounce back again.