I was glad to see when I got on last night that my theory about Tristan's hind end being a little sore as the cause of his tripping/stumbling was correct. He still stumbled a little bit, but it felt more like wobbly weakness and being sooooooooo behind the leg rather than the hind end wonkiness of a few days ago. Whew.
Last night, we started off with a walk around the big field on a loose rein: a mile in about 20 minutes, steady up and down the hill. I'm starting to think that heading straight downhill is not the best way to warm up, but we have so many hills that I'm not sure what else to do. Walking circles around the outdoor, then hillwork, then a dressage school? Boooooring. But perhaps necessary.
I then transitioned to more work in the fancy dressage ring. I worked on his focus and steadiness. mostly, keeping him even in the bridle and focused on me. He Did Not Want to play for the first 10 minutes, flipping his head all around, and either rushing forward or dragging his feet (metaphorically, not literally). Fuss, fuss, fuss. I kept at it, and eventually got some nice even forward trot out of him. It wasn't exactly self-carriage or filling up the outside rein, but I'll take it.
One feature of riding in the outdoor is a hint of barn sourness: he goes MUCH faster toward the barn than away from it. Making the turn away from the barn back down the other long side is a maddening few strides of laying down the law. The first few are always ugly, and then last night I worked hard on my own communication, completely closing the outside aids and not letting him duck out at all.
We did a little bit of canter, and what we did I was really, really happy with. I tried to focus on quality, not quantity, and got some nice uphill transitions and then worked hard on keeping a very rambunctious canter controlled through my seat and legs, not my hands. I felt solid and secure and was thrilled with the progress we made even through three short 20m circles of canter.
Today, we're getting some kind of last gasp indian summer weather: it might get into the 70s. So probably we will just walk and walk without real work, since I bet he'll even be sweaty under his winter coat while he's just hanging out.