Today was a good day. I had decided that Pie and I would go on the trail solo today, and we managed a ride of about a mile together. This may not seem like much, but it's the first solo ride we've done since my fall in June. I "firmed up" and gave Pie the leadership he needed to get the job done for me - he was a bit nervous, but I kept asking him to do small things for me - shallow serpentines down the trails, halts, backing, and some walk/trot/walk transitions. I deliberately kept him on a loose rein throughout and kept my focus where I wanted us to go. He was nervous about some yard equipment - a string trimmer and some other piece of loud equipment (I didn't look), and there was one small spook in place when a bunch of doves flew up. He was anxious to get home but behaved well - we even turned and did some more trot work away from home for a bit. His anxiety was higher the closer we got to home, and he was distracted once he saw the other horses (particularly the mares who were running in desperation from the terrible flies), but stayed with me.
We went to the arena - with anxiety coming towards home I wanted him to work some more and get to a better place before I got off. It took a little bit of time, but we ended with some very nice, soft walk and trot figure work using the cones, as well as some transition work emphasizing clean, immediate transitions. I was very happy with how he did. In order to give myself some backbone, while we were on the trail, I held the front of the Mattes pad with one hand - if he had really spooked or spun I would have been more secure (I was riding in a dressage saddle - must get him traced so I can get my trail saddle ordered).
Then I had a really good ride on Drift where he dealt with a lot of distractions and just kept on trucking. Again I think my "firming up" made a difference to him - I caught one slight spook forwards before it happened and kept him working, and he coped really well with a number of things that might have usually made him nervous.
The flies have just now gotten to the point that they're immune to all the sprays - even Mosquito Halt. They were biting both me and the horses viciously today when we were working. It's been dry, though, so the mosquitos have eased up a bit. Poor Dawn came in from turnout with four huge welts on her neck - she may have had an encounter with wasps. The welts weren't sore to the touch, but she was still uncomfortable so we didn't work today.
Now, what do I mean by "firming up"? Theres a post coming on the relationship between firmness and softness . . .