Again with the sucking about keeping this up.
First: unexpected jump lesson on Tuesday, and it was awesome. Tris came out spunky and a bit tight, but forward and ready to rock and roll; he hadn't been ridden in four days. He warmed up great, and I got to work on floating my seat and half-halting him to a better tempo instead of booting him forward into one. The trick with him is balancing on that edge, keeping that gathering without letting him think he gets to slip back down a gait to make it easier.
Jumping went well - when I ride better, he jumps better, surprise. Some of his new maneuverability in the canter translated beautifully in the rollbacks we were trying. I had a couple of reallllly nice jumps, and only one truly awful one; he took a teensy bit of a long spot, I wasn't as deep in my stirrups as I could've been, and just...never got into two point. T. described it as parasailing. Quite the flyer.
At the end, we got to just canter around and jump what we wanted, and Tris was a bit tired and punky, kept breaking his canter or not rating, and after each jump I was thinking about many things and kept getting a teensy bit more and more into my knee rolls and out of my stirrups. Which resulted in a brief time out as we circled and re-organized, and had 2-3 quite decent last jumps. But for reference: the loose ring he's going in now is not going to be enough bit to jump anywhere but the indoor. It is a bit too subtle for my black-and-white pony.
Last night was...not nearly that good. It wasn't even 5% that good. It was one of the worst rides I've had in weeks and weeks. Started off not awful: bending nicely in the walk, then springing in the trot but not quite through, and still tense enough that he wasn't blowing out like I was hoping. He was also reluctant to move off the inside leg, though he had outside leg down cold - spiral in was great; spiral out was a negotiable thing. I just couldn't quite fix it, and am still nervous about riding in traffic, so couldn't really shove him out the way I wanted too.
I asked for canter earlier than I usually would to try and blow him out - sometimes that will loosen him up. And it. was. AWFUL. It felt like riding a washing machine that's out of whack. He was off balance, high-headed, cranky, and my seat immediately went to hell and my legs came up, we had horrible fights about not running through his shoulder, no semblance of softness to speak of, hard to keep him there more than a few strides, constantly got the wrong lead...you name it. I was practically in tears after a few attempts - and it didn't even accomplish what I hoped. I settled for a decent down transition and a bit more forward swinging trot, and gave him a break.
Picking him up again after his break felt better. Still not what I'd call "good," but his trot came back quickly, and I asked for a better contact - really into the outside rein instead of just curling his neck. He was tracking up a teensy bit more, though he never quite got where I wanted him. Canters were...well, better, but again that's not saying much. He was at least getting some circles through, and not trying to fling his head around and crash into the other horses, though Bobby, who was cooling out, was not convinced, and tried to swing and double barrel Tris when we came around one circle. So that was fun. Can't really blame him; it probably looked rather out of control.
He got a teensy bit soft at the end of each canter, and I called it done on that work for the day. Back to the trot, then a break. After the break, walk-trot transitions on a circle and through leg-yields to try and inject more energy into his walk, then some stretching in the trot, and then done.
I don't know what to do about his canter anymore. I can't ride it well, and we keep taking one step forward and three steps back. I don't know if he's stiff from the cold, or if it's mental, or what. I spent most of the ride home nearly in tears sorting out what I'm doing wrong: I'm out of shape, I'm not riding him enough, he's getting older and stiffer, and in the end, I've had this horse for over four years and we still can't canter decently. I can't go down to the barn any more than I am; I'm already struggling to pay for gas each month and staying up until midnight to read for class, not to mention getting to M.'s and crawling straight into bed. I can't afford to put him in any kind of extensive training, and at this rate, if we don't get his canter in a place where I'm not worried about him bolting sideways out of the dressage ring, we aren't going anywhere this summer. Shipping out to ride Intro tests just doesn't seem worth it to me. I just don't know.