I went to the barn determined to not be in the round pen. Given our whole bit episode, it was definitely not time for the trails. But I felt like I was leaning on the round pen and it was time to work in a bigger space and push the envelope a bit.
We spent a few minutes working through the bit issue.
BTW I appreciate everyone asking about tooth issues. Actually during the hiatus smokey and lily both got their teeth floated by the most amazing equine dentist - Lorrie Hardy.
This woman was incredible. She works without power tools, found major issues with lily, floated smokey without sedation. If you are in Texas I strongly urge you to consider her. She also found a tumor on one horse, undoubtedly saving his life, did an adjustment, removed smokey's and other geldings beans, and even pulled his baby tooth that was being stubborn all with an herbal calming tonic! Toss me a line if you want contact info.
I'll post more about Lorrie later...
After 15 minutes Smokey settled into the bit, and we worked on steering. It was a good session, but I wanted to get at least one canter in. I was remembering something I learned when I was watching trail rider's lesson with his longtime instructor (who he recently went back to). Keep in mind my knowledge about cueing for the correct lead is very rudimentary. In fact, I always have to think of which leg to use.
At trailrider's lesson, the trainer was helping him figure out why the mare' s canter was so rough. What trail rider suspected was right. She was on the wrong lead. I noted how he told trailrider to hold her head to the outside, cue her with the outside leg. I'd heard this before, but I never understood why you'd tilt the horse's nose to the outside. Given that I've never let my lack of knowledge hold me back from asking even the most basic questions, I asked. In case I'm not alone in my ignorance, the trainer explained that the goal was to get the shoulder of the horse moving forward first.
"Turn your head," he said. "what happens to your shoulder?"
I turned to look at the other side of the round pen. "It tilts a little forward."
"But you're picking up at the trot that she's ready for the lead. How do you do that?"
He shrugged. "I can just tell."
He said that trail rider needed a ground man to tell when the mare was in the correct lead.
Back in our arena I tried to remember this as Smokey and I headed out to canter. Not surprising, he was resistant.
Smokey: "Canter? After all that lovely trotting?"
Me: "You know we have to get to it eventually"
Smokey: "Fine." (lurching forward)
Me: "What was that?"
Smokey: "Hey, it's been a while."
Me: " Let's try again."
Smokey: "I can't make the turn! ahhhhh!"
me: "I think you're on the wrong lead." (I couldn't 'see' it or feel it, but I thought it was probably why he was having trouble turning. It was the first time I'd figured this out, and we had had the trouble repeatedly). "Let's try to get on the right lead." *cue left leg, a little pressure to tilt the nose. No go*
Smokey: "I have no idea what you're talking about! Ahhhh!"
me: "I can see that."
Smokey: "Good. No way I can turn there . Let's stop."
me: "Let's try the other direction."
We canter around the arena, making our circle. On the left lead. We make the turn.
me: "Good job!"
Smokey: (puffing) "Are we going to be doing new stuff all the time?"
me: "Technically none of this is new."
Smokey: "Technically it's grain time."
me : "One more time."
Smokey: (pause) "Under protest."
me: (sigh) "Noted."
And we did one more on the left lead. We'll work on the right - next time.