Sometimes I don't give Gabe as much credit as he deserves. Sometimes, I think the worst will happen instead of giving him the benefit of the doubt. Yes, I am a pessimist.
Due to the incredible amount of mud around here I haven't been able to ride for at least a month. Yesterday was beautiful beyond belief and the ground had dried enough to still be soft, but not squishy or slippery and the only thing I could concentrate on was getting home and riding!
So, I snuck out of work early so I could get out there and ride my boy while the riding was good. I lunged him first (again, I might be crazy, but I'm not suicidal!) and he bucked and farted around a bit, but was good. As long as he stays on the end of the line and listens when I ask him to settle down, it's all good. I'd rather he get those stupid moments out without me in the saddle! And I've noticed that lunging him first, even if it's for a couple of minutes, gets him into the right mindset for working rather than goofing around.
He was not too sure about a new piece of tack I fitted him with and tossed his head around like he was trying to fling it as far as possible from his body. I think I've mentioned before that he has a bit of a mouthy issue. As soon as the bit goes in it's jiggle, jiggle, jiggle, chew, chew, chew, suck it up and try to gnaw on it. For the entire ride. He works the crap out of that bit. No grinding, just chewing and playing. We gets TONS of white frothy stuff, but the bit isn't staying stable and he needs to learn to just let it sit there. I tried a flash on him, but I HATE flashes and he hated it too. So I gladly took it off. I found a nice figure-8 noseband and fitted it on him for the first time yesterday. I fit it loose just so he could get used to it. He was NOT PLEASED with it. He'll get over it, and he did. I'll snug it up a hole for our next ride and see how he does. I'm not a big believer in holding their mouths closed, ever, so it will never be as tight as I've seen on some horses. I'm sure you've seen the ones that are so damned tight the horse's flesh bulges around the leather. That's just cruel and uncalled for, in my opinion.
We did a lot of really forward, steady trot work, changing diagonals, circles, serpentines, figure-8s and gait changes. As long as I kept him moving forward things were excellent. Every time I halted he got wiggly. I don't blame him, it was gorgeous and a bit windy and he was definitely a bit full of his silly self! He still hauls around circles like a freight train when tracking right, but we're working on it.
Oh! And we cantered a bit, too. I LOVE LOVE LOVE his canter. Probably the easiest, smoothest, most powerful canter I've ever ridden. I can ride that canter all day long and never tire of it. Lovely, lovely. He tossed a few half-hearted hops/bucks in while we cantered along and I laughed at him and his exuberance. It was obvious to me that he was just playing and feeling good, not being a butt or trying to dump me in the dirt.
Here's the part I was feeling a bit pessimistic about.
I've never taken him out for a trail ride by himself and I knew before I even got in the saddle that I was going to take him out. Yes, I had a few butterflies in my tummy just thinking about it. We've always been accompanied by one of the other horses and he's happy to march along with his friends safely near him. The few times the other two have been out of sight while I was riding he pitched an "Oh My God! I'm going to DIE!" fit until he could see them again.
So, I was worried he'd pitch an even bigger tantrum if I took him completely away from them. I was prepared, riding in my defensive seat and aware of every little ear twitch or muscle quiver, ready to react quickly if he decided to come unglued.
Imagine my pleasant surprise when he was absolutely perfect. I mean PERFECT. Strode along with that huge, powerful ground-eating walk of his, didn't startle when a bunny jumped out of the field under his nose, didn't argue or hesitate at all, even as we got further and further away from his buddies. Who, by the way, yelled for him a couple of times.
We only went out for about half a mile, but he was perfect for every step of it, even came back nicely without rushing.
I guess I should trust him a little more often. I've done a good job training him so far and I should trust that training, trust that he will behave and respond when I ask because that's what I've taught him to do.