Oh, okay, not little snags. I haven't been riding my horse terribly well lately. He hasn't been cooperating either, so there's that.
Right now, here's one of our problems: cantering improves the trot. But he is not quite strong enough to hold himself well in the canter.
So I am left with, after a 15 minute walk warmup, shoving him through the trot, insisting on forward and through while begging for any semblance of softness. He is stiff and sore in his hind end, I know this; I am attempting to remedy this in other ways. But he is not so stiff and sore that he cannot do the things I am asking of him.
(This, I think, is the endless daily compromise of an older horse. He is sore and he is tired. But the ways to fix that involve more basic dressage. There is a lot of working through to get to the other side. He's going to come out of his stall stiff no matter what; but he is a horse, and horses live in the moment, and he doesn't believe me that after warming up his body will feel better, and that the daily work of simple dressage is keeping him healthier and more limber overall.)
Cantering: that helps. A lot. It gets him excited, it breaks up the tension in his back, and it is smoother and easier for him right of the bat.
Best of all is cantering forward on a loose rein, with me out of the saddle.
We cannot do that outside, not yet; though he is way better than he was earlier this summer, when he was bolting hell-bent for leather at the slightest provocation, he is still not what I would call reliable enough for a forward canter in half seat on a long rein. Bolting straight is one thing - bolting sideways is another.
When we are inside, it works, and it helps, but it's summer in Vermont, and we don't want to be inside.
So we canter in a more constrained manner, with a firm hand on the reins, and only occasionally do I feel secure enough to stand in my stirrups. Which lessens the effectiveness of a good long canter. Which in turn makes the trot work that much harder.
I tried to get away with just working up through the trot last night, and it was awful. I spent 40 minutes bullying him into softness, which is really not fun.Or good. Eventually he got there, and he got all the praise, and when he gave me a nice soft 20m circle in the trot we called it quits in the upper ring, and I made the mistake of picking at him a bit more in the lower ring.
But afterwards he was nosy and affectionate and sweet, so there's that, at least.