Once we started the lesson he was much better which leads me to believe it's mental and not physical. If it were physical, wouldn't it get worse with prolonged riding instead of better? I think with JM arriving he had something else to think about and forgot about the fields for a minute. Mostly due to what she saw when she pulled up, we spent a lot of time working in a circle with 4 cones set up in quarters doing an exercise much like what in2paints has been working on with her "hunting the stop" exercises. We started at the walk and whenever he'd speed up we'd stop and make sure we were balanced and square with round back and soft in the bridle. Then we did the same at the jog. The idea (or so I gathered) is to get the horse anticipating the stop and therefore be softer, slower, and more balanced. It's harder to stop when you're plowing forward with a hollow back and weight on the forehand so you encourage the horse to stay in a posture and speed that makes it easiest to stop. Making the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard. A variation of this (that I got from a reining video) is to lope to a halt, then back immediately. This is, again, encouraging the horse to stay in the round soft frame so they can stop and back more easily. This is also encouraging topline and hindquarter development. During the walk and jog I felt what in2paints described as the horses's legs getting heavier, almost asking every step "still forward?". Now, this type of exercise can be over-done and create a hesitant horse that lacks forward movement and destroys the cadence. You've all seen that kind of horse where the walk looks like a drunk old man, the jog looks like some weird new gait where two legs are in sync but the other set are slightly off. We will not go there. But considering how forward Junior is, especially at shows, it'll be helpful to establish a communication where he understands to slow down but stay round. We finished off with a little pattern work and it seems it takes us 2-3 tries in a pattern to get him listening to me and responding to the aids. The smaller and tighter the cones the harder it is. I think my worst problem is not pre-cueing enough. I forget that he's not broke enough to just come down from a lope to an extended jog and stay in posture if I don't remind him to round up and I end up using only half my aids and getting craptastic downward transitions. His upward transitions are really easy so I forget that the downward ones still suck.
I know part of the recent problem is that when I have those morning lessons/rides, he gets to watch all the other horses be taken out of their stalls and out to the fields to eat grass. He would very much like to go with them. It wasn't as bad when he was only turned out in the sand lot but now that they're spending their day on the grass he's gotten worse. He was better on Saturday when one of my students came out to get a pony ride. I got on him first and he was a little uppity but not bad. He behaved relatively well for my student and when he was being "bad" I could tell it was because the student was actually giving him mixed signals and Junior was trying to do as he was being asked so I made sure we weren't punishing him for that.
In other news, I broke down and bought a bottle of corn oil. I'm still waiting for the "free sample" from Uckele and the water didn't work. I was able to do the first 3 morning feedings with the corn oil so by yesterday morning the powder was essentially gone and he only left a few feed pellets and that is pretty normal for him. The $5 bottle of oil and the $1 for the mustard squirter was a lot cheaper than the $35 for the Cocosoya oil. And since I don't even know if the Tri-Amino is going to help I don't want 2 gallons of Cocosoya oil lying around.
Mustard squirter? I suppose I should explain. I hate corn oil on the feed cart. We were feeding one of the horses corn oil for a while and everything gets covered in it. Ideally I'd like to find a pump bottle to put on the bottle, but in lieu of that I went to the dollar store and bought a package of the red and yellow squirt bottles people use for ketchup and mustard. I chose the yellow one since it's corn. :) I've also got the bottle sitting inside a plastic coffee can so it doesn't tip over and the mess is contained in that instead of running all over the feed cart.
It's somewhat embarrassing how twitchy and OCD I can be about the weirdest things. I would LOVE for the feed cart to only have the exact same containers for all the horses, labeled with my label maker and for all the feed to be kept in exactly the same type of containers. As if that would make it WORK better. As if the free re-used dog treat containers don't work as well as something I'd find at the container store for $10. But it would look so pretty!!!!
We have a show in 11 days so we have some work to do. Another lesson on Friday with JM. It sounds like my awesome BM is going to come to the show to help me out/hang out so that is very cool and I'm looking forward to it!