It was a cloudy day, with temperatures reaching about 42F, but there wasn't as much wind as there's been. It seems like it's been horribly windy for days and days, and in fact someone I know said that they'd heard it was already one of the windiest Novembers ever. Tomorrow it's supposed to rain, so I wanted to get in some rides if I could. In the morning, I took my truck and trailer to be inspected - this is a twice a year requirement - and I'd left it hitched up in the barn parking lot so we could also do some trailer loading practice.
Despite the chill, it was a very good day, with small triumphs with all three horses. Dawn was first - she was fairly nervous and tense, even chomping the bit which she almost never does. I took her first thing to the trailer, and she loaded right up - she always does and these refreshers aren't really needed for her. After we groomed, tacked and mounted up, we worked on our figures - my objective was to get her to relax. After about 10 minutes, she began to relax and concentrate and we got some nice work done, including some more very nice lateral work. As recently as 6 months ago, Dawn probably wouldn't have been able to relax and be "with" me under these circumstances - now she can. Good Dawn!
Drifter was next. He was feeling pretty feisty, but was well-behaved. I've pretty much dropped the ground work with him now, and just take him to the arena and get right on. He was nice and forward, and also very soft. His walk felt good, so we did some lengthening and pole work to get him to engage his hind end. Then we trotted. There were a few moments of tentative trot, but then he decided he felt pretty good and off we went in a nice medium trot. We did a number of sets of this, interspersed with some walking lateral work. I untacked him in the arena, and led him straight to the trailer. We haven't done any trailer loading work since May, and his best loading effort at the time involved taking about 3 minutes to load with some resisting and attempts to leave the scene - even this was a big improvement over how he loaded (or rather didn't load) when I got him. I had mentioned to Mark Rashid at the clinic in May that Drifter's loading still needed more work, and Mark said not to worry to much about it, that it would come together in time as our work progressed. Mark was right - I'm not too surprised by that. Today Drifter's first loading attempt took only about a minute - there were a few slight instances of resistance but they were very brief. The second attempt was even quicker and there was almost no resistance, although he did want to back off pretty quickly once he was on. We did one more load - he pretty much walked right on, and this time I asked him to walk all the way forward and put his head out the window before I asked him to back off. My daughter's using my trailer this weekend, and I'll have her leave it hitched when she comes back so we can have another session, with a focus on him staying on the trailer for a longer time. I was delighted with him and told him so. Good Drifter!
Then Mr. Pie and I had a ride. (We didn't do any loading work, since he loads just fine and he got some practice on our trip to the vet clinic.) We did a little arena work, working on getting him to engage his hind end - lengthening at the walk and pole work - and then we took a short trail excursion. We went by ourselves about 1/2 mile from the barn and back - this is the farthest we've been solo in a very long time. We actually went a bit farther than I'd planned to go today. Pie's walk was very forward and swinging - the best walk he's had in the year I've had him. He was clearly happy to be heading out and at one fork actually asked to take the direction leading farther from the barn. We met some friends walking their dogs and walked back to the barn with them - Pie is interested in and likes dogs so long as they're not barking and leaping. Good Pie!
I was thinking about these small triumphs with each horse - none of them are about any technique I used - they were offered to me by the horses as a result of the relationship I have with each of them that's been developed over time by each small thing we do and accomplish together. In Dawn's case, I've focused in her work on developing relaxation and attention. With Drifter, I've worked on developing his softness and confidence. With Pie, it's mostly been that he needed to feel better physically so he could enjoy our rides, and for me to feel more confident so that I can provide him the leadership and direction he needs.
Triumphs all around - I'll take that!