I'm learning a lot from Gabe, just by being around him. He is reminding me that perfection isn't always necessary as long as a step or two are made in the right direction. He is also reminding me that sometimes I try too hard and need to take some time to just hang out and relax. Learning should always be fun and play should always be a part of the learning process.
Last night we skipped the "intensive" training session and went for a long walk instead. Our neighbor has an absolutely gorgeous piece of property. Twenty+ acres of grassy fields and shady woods are accessible just across our creek. He keeps trails mowed through the fields and woods and has given us permission to use it, whenever. Gabe hasn't been off our property yet and he hasn't had much experience with deep woods so I thought it would be a good experience for him. I thought about ponying him off Calypso, but I've never ponied off her so I don't really know how she would behave. Instead, I asked Robert to ride her while I took Gabe for a walk through the woods. I figured Calypso would give him some confidence in such a new, exciting situation.
She did and he was WONDERFUL. He walked right over the bridge over our creek without hesitation or even a snort. He looked at it, sniffed the surface, and walked on. It was during our walk through the wide open fields where he reminded me that sometimes it's okay to stop and smell the roses and just stand still to gaze out across the world. Sometimes, there are delightful bits of clover to munch on while just checking things out.
He wasn't so sure about the woods at first because he's never had to walk through woods. I imagine, as a horse who is used to big open spaces, the tight, towering, closed in woods can be a pretty spooky place. He was looky and wanted to stop just to make sure there weren't horse-eating monsters hiding behind trees, but he was good. He wasn't a nut and he didn't spook at a thing...he just asked to stop and look around a bit before moving on. There are woods in the pasture he's turned out in, but he's been extremely hesitant to follow Calypso into them. When she disappears into the trees, he runs along the edge and calls for her. After I walked him through the woods last night, he followed her right into the woods when I turned them back out into the pasture.
He has a funny habit that he does to show his displeasure with me. When I'd ask him to stop and stand while Calypso kept walking, he'd jig a little bit then wrinkle up his lips like he was thinking REALLY hard about what I was requiring him to do. He also likes to grab the lead rope in his teeth if he's getting bored with whatever we are doing as if to tell me "Okay, next thing, please. I've got this one figured out." When he's frustrated, he stretches his neck and grinds his teeth to show his frustration. If these are the ways he deals with his displeasure and frustration, I can definitely deal with them. Those are FAR better than a horse who runs me over, bites or tries to take off when they aren't particularly overjoyed with the current situation.
I am, however, starting to worry we may have a herd-bound issue with him, which could be a problem later down the line. When I take Calypso or Chief out to ride, he has little galloping/bucking fits in his pasture and SCREAMS. He's just going to have to figure out that eventually they do come back and nothing is going to eat his great big self while they are gone.