I wish I could say I was up and at 'em and raring to go to the barn after work yesterday, but it was more like a steady progression of putting one foot in front of the other. Eventually I threw a leg over Tristan's back and rode.
It was a good ride, though he was definitely feeling the humidity and the increased level of work. I debated easing off the rehab schedule or even skipping a week with his time off this week, and decided to proceed as if normal and keep an eagle eye and ease off he felt weak or not up to it. He held up fine, but was definitely quite warm at the end, so after our second trot I pulled the saddle and got back on to walk him out bareback. I spent quite a while hosing him off, too, amidst rolling thunder that never actually arrived at a storm. We're getting closer and closer to bathtime - I figure I'll tackle it as soon as I have an extra hour to spare at the barn. He doesn't exactly need it, but he looks so terrific after he's gotten one.
Having such an obsessive focus on timing and his fitness helped me uncover two things this week. The first is that his stiff/don't-wanna/grumpy phase in the first trot lasts almost precisely 3 minutes. Were he in full work, I would canter him around a time or two standing up in the stirrups; with that option unavailable I push him forward through the trot, asking for more and more forward, maybe even more than I need, post generously, and push the reins forward, giving him his head entirely as he tends to flip it around in protest. At about 3 minutes he warms up/gives up and reaches for the bit and we start talking again.
The second is that for the first time last night, in his second trot, instead of stretching forward into a loose rein he started to do a little bit more heavy diving on the forehand. So I gathered in another few inches of rein and picked up his frame a bit, countering the dive. It seemed to me he was signalling he's ready for a higher quality of work, or at least that he needs a higher quality of work to continue to support him. Trotting around in mostly straight lines, on a soft stretchy contact was good to get him started, but I think we're ready to move on from that.
Hopefully I will have some pictures and video of tomorrow's ride to show what I mean.