I had a lesson on Winston tonight after work. He.was.AWESOME.
Sandy started giving Winston Previcox (for pain and soreness associated with his hard work) last weekend and ulcer paste on Monday. She noticed a big improvement when she worked him Monday. He didn't throw any tantrums. He was happy to go to work.
When I mounted Winston tonight, I felt happy energy underneath me; not a coiled spring ready to explode with the slightest provocation.
Tuesday, Sandy told me Winston was not only happy to work but he was also willing to try new requests; even when they weren't easy. He was also relaxed in the cross ties while being groomed and tacked up.
Winston carried himself in a lovely frame tonight. I didn't have to do more than keep my elbows soft and squeeze the reins now and then to communicate a change in pace. While doing shoulder-in on the long side, Sandy told me to ask for more angle by tapping him with the whip. (What???!!!) She said he would give me more if I asked. So I did and Winston did a lovely reaching side-stepping line down the rail. I told him he was amazing and he flicked an ear at me. He probably wiggled his lips too but I couldn't see.
Tuesday after work I drove in the rain to the barn to visit Winston. He saw me coming and met me at the stall door, bright eyed and happy. I groomed him and then we walked in the rain. I had my hood up and listened to the ping-plop of rain drops on my head while Winston ripped at the green grass with his teeth. After ten minutes, he sighed deeply and blew softly. He was completely content while we worked our way down the grassy aisle. The barn was deserted - it was late so the trainers were all gone for the day and boarders don't come out in the rain. Except for me.
Back to tonight. After Winston and I did our amazing shoulder-in, Sandy asked me if I wanted to canter. I was non-committal. She took that as "yes." We reviewed the steps (get him in a good frame and balanced, sit a few steps, then ask for canter) and she directed me to hook my inside thumb through the bucking strap. She said it was so my hand would stay steady and I could better follow with a soft elbow. I wasn't sure I believed her but I did as I was told... and asked for canter. He kept the frame and just cruised into a lovely relaxed and balanced canter. Sandy said it was the best transition she's seen us do -- and if we could do it going the other direction, we would be done with our lesson. So, we aced it. I slid off, told Winston he was a rock star, and gave him a handful of cookies.