Sunday afternoon I rode Lance in the arena while Brian and a friend did what boys do nearby in the woods. Lance was alert to their whereabouts but not spooking – until the boys got leaf rakes and started raking paths to the campsite they are creating. I can't blame Lance for reacting; it certainly looked like the boys were preparing a secret burial plot and it might have been for him! Lance spun and bolted, ending his short run with some crow-hopping. It was all relatively smooth; I stayed in the saddle and we immediately resumed our schooling session.
When it came time to canter we were tracking right, and Lance fell in dramatically when I asked for the transition from trot. I persisted and finally got canter – or rather, cranky crow-hopping. It didn't improve much; left-lead canter was better, but not great. I've been thinking about working him on the lunge line to improve his canter (balance and strength); this settled it – even if it was precipitated by the earlier spook.
So today, after walking and trotting under saddle, I got off to work Lance at the canter on the lunge line. I was told that the trainer who started him does a lot of lunging so I figured Lance would know the ropes, but left off the sidereins until I saw how he went. Well, he went like a horse who has issues with lunging – or at least lunge whips! His behavior was quite out of character at first, but I kept talking calmly and quietly to him, praising him when he cantered or trotted on the circle instead of bolting or bucking or kicking out at me. Finally, finally, he settled down, although it took quite awhile before he was willing to walk quietly on the end of the line. Lunging is definitely something we need to work on!