Because in truth, he's a star. My past three rides in a row have been absolutely wonderful. He has started off with a big, stretchy, nose-to-ground, voluntarily forward (!) trot. Which I love, and would like to ride all day long. Is there a test that goes: Enter at A, rising trot, allow horse to stretch forward and downward, circle right at E, rising trot, allow horse to stretch forward and downward, FXH, allow horse to stretch forward and downward, etc.? Sign me up for that one please.
As I pick up my reins I zig zag from the rail to the quarter line (not leg yields, but little diagonals) using a direct (slightly open) rein to turn to get him taking both reins. I have finally come to terms with the fact that what feels like a left rein problem is actually a right rein problem. We've apparently been doing everything off our left rein for the past decade or so. In both directions. This is obviously wrong, yet we have persisted. The good news is, it's finally becoming more normal for me to actually do something with my right hand, and I'm finally becoming aware of when there's not enough contact on my right rein, and then working on getting him to take it, rather than uselessly fighting with him on the left. Now here is a shocker: if you get the horse to take the right rein, he becomes magically lighter on the left rein.
If the zig zags aren't quite working then we'll add in some shoulder-fore tracking left, and depending on how supple he feels, I usually then play around with other movements, trying to keep him relaxed, taking both reins, and going forward. If he gets tense I just scrap it and do some forward or stretchy work and come back to it later in the ride. His lateral work is not perfect, but improving all the time. Right now we are working on making him straighter in his leg yields. For a while I was letting him lead with his right shoulder (going left-to-right) so that he'd actually take the right rein during the leg yield, but now that we've gotten better at that, we're making them more correct.
We have made excellent progress with our trot lengthenings. Once I got out of my own way, and told Tucker that I actually do want him to go that forward ("Are you sure about this?" "Yes, really, go!" "OKAY!"), I discovered there is a big, beautiful trot in there. And most of the time we can organize ourselves in the corner afterward. I hope the judges like it. I think he's the best at it. And since he seems to like it, I incorporate them into every ride.
His canter is very much a work in progress. In the Fall I had developed what felt like a really great medium canter. We were still taking way too long to transition back from a medium canter to his working canter (ahem, without breaking to a trot, Tucker). But, the medium canter itself was big and balanced and coming from behind. We had to abandon medium canter work for the last couple of months because winter and crazy and Marissa doesn't have a death wish.
Since he's been a little more rideable the past few rides I've been trying to figure out how to open up the canter again, without just running and getting flat and gross (he seems to have forgotten the balanced and coming from behind portion of the exercise). I still haven't quite figured out how to get a good canter right from the start, which I know is the goal. For now I've been compromising and doing what I call a warm-up canter, which I can keep round but not forward, then going back and doing some more forward trot work, and then cantering again and seeing if I can keep it round and send it forward.
I have a few problems. First, I really can't sit his canter when I open it up. I'm not entirely sure how to fix this, other than just get stronger, but we'll get there. As a hunter princess, I've never really sat on a horse at the canter in my entire life, so I literally have no muscle memory to rely on. I was thinking about it last night while driving, and I'm wondering if maybe in my effort to sit, I'm getting stiff somewhere and creating some resistance so while I think I'm telling him to go forward, I'm actually preventing it from happening. So I'm going to try to figure that out in my ride tonight. If all goes well, I want to do some counter-canter work again too.