Ever have one of those rides where you start out and you think "holy shit, I have no idea what I'm sitting on, but if I can get through this it's going to be awesome"?
That was last night. I tacked up and we walked the field for a while to loosen up, and then we did our first real school in the outdoor arena. Tristan was UP, and I couldn't blame him: first ride outside, a bit cool, quite windy, and I'd led him out of the barn just as the other horses were being grained.
I was keeping our goal of consistency in mind, and worked hard on getting him supple and focused. Lateral work took some time, as did bend: he was too busy powering around and looking at everything. Then he wanted to canter every time I put my leg on; in the canter, he wanted to ramp up and up until he was hand galloping around and blowing through aids in order to lean back toward the barn.
Lots of patience, keeping him straight, and using his safe word: "eeeeeeeasy." I taught it to him sort of by accident years ago, and it's his cue to chill the fuck out, already. Often, it comes with the side effect of making him too quiet, but usually I can then work him back up again. Last night, it just calmed him down. After about 30 minutes of a "limbs, limbs, everywhere" kind of ride I got my first glimmer of consistent softness, and then shortly after that brilliance: deep, round, powering up behind, accepting my half-halts. Gorgeous, gorgeous trot.
It didn't translate to the canter, but then it never does. (Side note: I made arrangements before mounting for the trainer's barn manager/assistant trainer to sit on Tristan in the next week or so and help me figure out the canter. Will report back with pictures.) Canter was still productive, though, and had some nicer moments.
After a break, the trot picked up even better, and we were done. It was too cold and windy for him to be sweaty, but he'd gone rounder and better than he has in months - possibly years. It's going to be a good summer!