I've started riding Jade this week. I'm not 100% sure of which day was Day 1, but it was last week. I bolted from work early and headed to the barn as early as I could to claim the round pen. Even with all that rushing, I BARELY made it there first and managed to forget things in the trailer, in the barn, at her stall, etc which resulted in lots of unnecessary walking. By the time I was ready to go in the pen, there were other people milling that way but I managed to get there first.
I don't like being rushed and with horses you never know what is going to happen so I decided with the crowds coming, I was going to keep it simple. Also, I've NEVER been at a barn where people used the round pen so wtf? I ran Jade through her exercises with the western saddle on to make sure she was again ok with it (our first time free lunging with it) and she was responsive and nice. I brought her to the fence and hopped on. Really the only goal here was to work on one rein stopping at the halt and walk with a possibility of a trot one too. I chose to just go to the right (more people showed up waiting) and got started. Jade figured it out quickly and so we worked up the speed. There were some forward issues (of course) but she quickly figured out that the rules from me on the ground were the same as in the saddle. We found an end point and headed out.
Next attempt I KNEW I was going to do all three gaits in both directions and I talked my brain down on the "what ifs" about her tantrums. Her tantrums only showed up at the canter and we not readily apparent so I was happy that she was trying to figure things out. Some of her trotting was sluggish so we worked on that and I got some sitting trot practice in while she figured that out. Goal was to learn that no matter what I did up there, she needed to just go forward. Cantering got a little dicey once she started getting tired but we worked through it and I one rein stopped her when she seemed to maliciously bounce/kick/buck. It's hard because sometimes to get into the canter she "needs" to bounce at this point so I have to gauge how I think she's meaning the bounce. Overall, very good ride and I felt confident, happy, and relaxed.
Today was the third ride and Miss Jade was very very good from the start. I knew I was going to be more assertive (but fair) about the shenanigans at the canter and was going to insist on a full circle around the pen without breaking along with lots of transitions as I needed. I was also going to push her fitness as well as her commitment to working so the odds of her throwing a fit of some sort was high, but from yesterday they were really mild compared to two months ago.
We worked about 45 minutes and she was very good. I had some issues (again) with the saddle slipping as she got sweaty (and started relaxing/breathing) but it was manageable and we were able to work on lots of nice trot and canter work. I rewarded the nice smooth transitions and then got onto her about 3 times due to her throwing a legit hissy fit. At the end she was super relaxed and good. I'm happy with how she and I are doing and even more happy to see a deeper relationship developing with my big black girl.
Moving forward, the plan is simply to keep round penning it until she can easily walk, trot, canter until I ask her to swap speeds and also continue to work on her "following the fence." For me, I'm working on sitting trot when it makes sense and also better position in the canter. The western saddle is great for this but I'll be looking to swap it to my cushy dressage saddle when I get the chance.