So this morning I pulled Russell out of the pasture where he'd been munching on his breakfast hay (all the grass long since eaten up and dried out) and got him ready. It wasn't too hot out yet, but he was warm from standing in the sun and acted pretty sluggish. After walking around a bit I asked for a trot and got a very lackadaisical response. Okay; clearly I needed to get him thinking forward, and hotter off my leg. Like Jane Savoie says (and I paraphrase), a horse must be responsive to your leg or you have nothing to work with. So I began a series of walk/trot transitions going both directions; it didn't take long at all for Russell to get with the program. A couple times I got more than I asked for, but that's okay; I let him canter a few strides and then quietly brought him back and asked again for an energetic trot from the walk. (Never correct a horse for offering more than you ask for; just quietly bring them back to where you started from and ask again with more finesse.) After a walk break that included shoulder-in, renvers and traverse, we did the same thing from walk to canter (taking care that the downward transitions to walk were just as forward and active as the upward transitions were). I decided to end with one final exercise on staying forward: going from working canter to working trot with no "sucking back." The first time my instructor had me do this, it took forever to get it right! (Our obvious need of a more forward downward transition was exactly what prompted her to make us do it, I'm sure.) The first downward transition to the trot was good, but when I asked for #2 (I try to do everything in threes to solidify the point being worked on), Russell throttled back. Nope - forward at the canter again; you don't get to trot when you do that. I asked a couple more times, with the same response on first his, and then my, part. Then he stopped listening to subtle aids and went into overdrive, charging around like he had energy to burn. So - burn, baby, burn! I could have brought him back, but only in a way that would have resulted in a lot of tension, so I let him gallop around and around (round, of course) to the right, then asked for a flying change across the diagonal and let him bomb around to the left. The intensity seemed to lessen, so I brought him back to a working canter and asked for the trot with no change of speed or energy. Got it - three times. So, back to the right again, and got the transitions properly that direction, too. Then I let him trot, big and stretching, before we started a long cool-down.
I had no intention to work him that long and hard, but you gotta deal with what comes. And by not getting into a battle with him, I was eventually able to get what I wanted and end on a good note.