Oso is proving to be a very smart boy! The last couple of rides have been nothing short of fantastic. He seems to be starting to understand that his new job is different than racing, and is staying relaxed and quiet the whole ride.
Before our last two rides, our trot work has consisted of short, choppy steps. Oso did not yet understand that I would like him to stretch down into the contact, lengthen his neck, and relax and use his back. Yesterday, after our 15-20 minute walk warmup, we picked up the trot and did our trot half the arena, walk half the arena exercise. I like to do this exercise to make it clear to Oso that once his workout starts, it does not get progressively faster. Every ride, I try to show Oso the way I would like him to carry himself by keeping my hands lowered a bit on either side of his neck, and providing a steady, but soft contact.
By our last trot yesterday, Oso took a deep breath, relaxed and accepted the contact! As soon as he lowered his neck and softened his back, I rewarded him by giving forward with my hands. I trotted another half lap, cooled him out and gave him lots of pats! Today we picked up right where we left off. In our first lap of trot around the arena, he was looking to soften and accept the contact. We were able to get some nice moments going both directions today. What a good boy!