Okay I rode Chrome after work today to see if I could figure out what was going on yesterday. What I've decided is that he's sensitive!!!
The differences from yesterday are that today it was easily ten degrees warmer (40sF) with no wind, I used only a halter so no bit and I used the fluffy fleece saddle pad. I only rode for around thirty minutes.
Okay so I put his halter on and got on bareback. I walked him around a few minutes and then started trotting up and down the driveway and weaving around trees in the circle just like yesterday. He was great. Eager, forward, responsive, etc.
My jacket has stupid things on it that get between my leg and the saddle or my leg and his back and it bruises! I asked him to stop so I could tie the strings up to keep it from bruising us and he slammed on the brakes. That was my first clue and I started paying attention. Remember we were in a halter!
So after riding around at the trot for a while bareback I took him to the car, got off, stood around, pet him, etc. Then I got back on bareback and rode him around. He was exactly the same. Forward walk and trot, slamming on the brakes when I asked him to walk or whoa. I tried cantering bareback, but I was too nervous so he wouldn't do anything except trot really fast.....
Then I took him to the car and saddled him up, but I used the fleece pad this time instead of the thin one. He shifted around a tiny bit when I tightened the girth, but not as bad as yesterday. So I hopped on and he walked off as eager and forward as before. I felt no difference at all between bareback and the saddle. We walked and trotted around some more, then I tried cantering.
He wouldn't canter the first time and tried to stop at the car (which hubby says is my fault because I've stopped him there every time I've cantered before.... I never noticed that before). So I tried again and he cantered, but he ducked his head. I overreacted because I was gun shy from yesterday and jerked his head up. He stuck his head straight in the air and tried to stop, but I remembered the comment saying if I let him stop he thinks it's okay so I pushed him on past the car and he cantered fine, but with his head in the air.
I cantered him several times after that and he still tried to stop at the car from habit, but he kept going when I asked him. When I told him to slow down with a vocal cue and no rein pressure he still threw his head in the air. :( Also on our last canter I told my hubby that was good enough because he didn't try to buck and his nose wasn't way in the air. Hubby said, "Aren't you going to praise him?" Oops!!! I wanted to cry when he said that. I haven't been praising him because I've been so absorbed in whatever we are working on and in my own fear. *fail!*
So what I've decided is stopping at the car is habit, the bucking was probably from the weather and feeling good and the overreactions and sensitivity is because he is terrified of getting yanked in the face. :( Yesterday the first time I asked him to canter he did it so easily and willingly with a great upward transition. After he bucked and I yanked him up he was running into the canter with his head in the air. Today he was running into the canter with his head in the air.
So I've decided to stop cantering him unless it happens naturally until I can get some lessons. I don't want my fear of him bucking to ruin him to cantering and riding in general. He's such a great horse. I won't do that to him. We will continue to trail ride and do some long trots, but the cantering will just stay on the back burner until I learn to quit yanking on his face out of fear. My hubby is also convinced that me yelling at the dog yesterday is part of what had him so over reactive because I always yell at him when I yank him out of a crow hop. Sigh. Why did it take me this long to figure out the problem???
I'm still going to pay close attention to the weather, the saddle, my riding, etc. to make sure I'm not missing anymore clues. I'm going to focus on making riding enjoyable for him again and I'm also going to stick with my plan of no feeding him after riding. I'll also make sure I'm not stopping by the car all the time. Yesterday was the first day that I had spent much time working him at the trot for long periods of time too because he is so energetic with the cooler weather. He's normally so lazy, it's hard to not take advantage of his willingness to move! I will make sure not to drill him though.
Thank you everyone for your comments. I really appreciate them. I'll keep you updated on how we're doing. :D