Drifter and I had an excellent work session today. The wind chill was about 30F and the arena footing wasn't fabulous but it's about to get much colder and windier and I wanted to get a work session in. I wasn't sure at the beginning how it was going to go - he was pretty up and made one attempt to nip me when I went to halter him in his paddock - he got a firm swat to the muzzle for that and after giving me a peeved look didn't try that again.
We've been doing a lot of work with him moving out of my space whenever I ask by moving towards him or holding up a hand or touching his body, and also on his maintaining an appropriate distance from me - I can come up to him but he can't come right up to me. And we've been doing lots of backing away from me if I ask him to back using my voice, holding up my hand or moving into his space.
Today I carried a dressage whip for our lungeing session - I had a lunge whip on the ground in the middle of the arena just in case but never needed it. I worked on being very clear with my body language and position, and our lungeing session went very well after he settled down a bit and realized I didn't want him to run in circles, even though I was carrying a whip. There were no major meltdowns or difficulties - he did turn in a few times but I just calmly started him out again in the correct direction. I worked on doing the least I could but doing as much as was needed, and ended up not having to get very big at all. By the end, we were doing lots and lots of walk/trot transitions with some halts thrown in - I used verbal commands as well as body language and if an upwards transition wasn't immediate, I used a flick of the whip instantly to reinforce it.
Once that was going well, I mounted up. I carried my short crop, and my objective was to get immediate transitions to trot without a moment's hesitation - I was to give him the aid and if he didn't instantly move into trot add the secondary aid of the crop tapping his shoulder. The first time was almost perfect - I cued and a fraction of a second later used the crop, not all the hard and voila we had an excellent trot transition. I've been waiting too long to use the secondary cue - if I can be right behind the primary cue there's not time for hesitation/balking to develop. I think the secondary cue won't be needed for long, although I'll probably continue to carry the crop just in case. No secondary cue was needed on any other trot transition during our work today.
And, as suggested by several commentators, we did lots of standing around after he did something well, with lots of verbal praise and rubs thrown in. I was pretty pleased - he just looked tired but his eye was softer and he seemed to understand he had done well. We're pretty close weather wise to losing the ability to work in the arena, and I wanted to get things in decent condition with Drifter before I'm shut down for the middle of the winter. I felt good about today - if this was our last work session before Drifter got the winter off, I wouldn't feel too bad. But there are some warmer days in the forecast next week, so maybe we're not done yet for the year . . .