We originally planned to do one more show this year, but showing is never our top priority and with the way things have been going I think it's safe to say we can scrap that plan. Instead we're just going to take it a bit easy and just have fun while we figure out if Cupid needs any maintenance, medical help, or maybe just a bit of a break. So I decided to try riding him bitless for the time being. This will help take the pressure off trying to ride him a certain way (I can't try to make him "on the bit if there is no bit!) and hopefully we can work on some other skills in the meantime like riding him more off my seat and legs; I can work on my strength in two point without any help balancing on the reins; and it's easier for me to focus on keeping my elbows by my side and hands closed when I'm not trying to maintain contact.
I don't have a real bitless bridle. I've ridden him plenty just with a halter and lead rope but I don't like how much the halter moves on his face, often ending up almost over his eye or just awkward. But I thought we can start with my lunging caveson. (I did order a leather side pull, which I now got but I realized I need a bridle with shorter cheekpieces, mine are already at the top hole for a bit.)
Riding him in the caveson has been going better than I expected. We've been having fun cruising around the property, doing more jumping, practicing opening and closing gates. Cupid's been a really good boy. Our first ride in the caveson was a foggy day, deer jumped out by us, and there was some tree trimming going on. I thought to myself that he is finally becoming more like my childhood horse that I could ride anywhere, when it occurred to me that he is still younger than Dee when I first got her. I never really appreciated that before, and it makes me optimistic that we still have many good years ahead of us.
I was starting to think maybe we're dealing with a hock thing because for a few rides the biggest problem area was having to chase him into the canter. Once he picked it up it felt okay, but the transitions were not prompt at all. Then I realized, we are used to the transitions with contact on the bit not a stretching frame. I decided the easiest place to work on this might be the round pen, and decided to try it from the walk not trot. As expected, the right lead was easier but the transitions were smoother and definitely more prompt so I think I just need to be more clear in my aids.
We've been loping around small courses, and Cupid seems very happy to be jumping and my confidence is getting better as well. This jump combined several things I don't like: the stone wall; it's skinny (usually we have 2 of these wall panels side by side); and no upright standards to funnel through. Our first time over it I kind of caught Cupid off guard on the approach, I think he was looking at the crossrail next to it and I almost bailed but managed to straighten him to it.