A perfect, gorgeous day for a long-discussed trail ride with Hannah and Tucker. Tristan loaded pretty well, for him - only flew backwards once - and couldn't stand still once we got there, but once I mounted he did great.
We went to what a friend from the barn calls the "turkey farm," though I'm not sure why. It's a wildlife management area, a bit small, but with a loop (maybe two miles? I'm not great at estimates) of lovely footing and beautiful scenery. We walked it, walk-trotted it with explorations of other loops, and then, since both horses were going beautifully and we were sure that brakes and steering were installed, we let them out for a long, hard canter almost-gallop through the woods. It was unbelievable - nothing but running horse underneath and the wind singing a long and the trail ahead. Tristan was beside himself with happiness, though quite tired at the end. He kept up with Tucker until the end of the gallop, and then he fell back a bit, though surged forward again when I asked for some more from him. I was expecting to be left in the dust, so I was really proud of Tris.
C. said he was raring to go on Monday night, not stiff or tired at all, and that they in fact spent the entire ride discussing tempo and staying in the gait she picked. Goober.
We're still down to whittling fine pieces off - more hock action, more reach underneath with the hind, more solid connection in the bend around the circle, more consistent connection in change of direction, and more even tempo. One of those lessons where you can tell the difference from beginning to end, but it's in tiny fractions of percentages, and more a general feel.
He's coming in to work faster, and feeling stronger and stronger. He worked for a solid 20 minutes last night and I didn't even notice he was tired. For the first time, we got something approaching a good canter liftoff in the left lead, and he was thinking about listening to my inside leg - and I was better about applying it - to leg-yield out. He even softened a bit and bent a bit in the left lead, which was HUGE.
We need to work on keeping our tempo and impulsion through the canter-trot down transition, and I need to work harder on keeping my legs where they need to be, keeping my calf on and not letting it wave out in space except when I need it. We also need to work better on stretching out - I'm incorporating a long period of stretchy ring figures into the middle of our rides to give him something different to think about, and to use a different set of muscles.
T. did say we were both clearly working hard, which was GREAT, even though I now feel guilty because I don't think I've been working nearly hard enough, not riding enough. But - I do what I can right now.
After we'd finished, T. was standing at Tristan's head and Tris was quite studiously looking for treats. T. reached over and tugged on Tristan's mane and a bit came out; he casually remarked, "Hm, comes out awfully easy." I stared blankly for a few seconds and then caught on. I don't want to pull his mane! It's gorgeous and thick and technically, mustang breed standards say he should keep it. I would def. consider thinning it out a bit so it's not so poofy, but...wah!
I realized on the drive home, however, that if T. is talking about pulling Tristan's mane, that's a pretty good indication he thinks we'll be ready to show in the spring. So. :D