We had another fabulous, long ride off the property again and Gabe was 50 percent better this time than he was last week. Our only issues: The cows (surprise, surprise) and a dog that appeared out of nowhere barking and lunging at us like a rabid lunatic.
Other than those two things, he was fabulous. And those two things were minor as he responded more like I expect him to respond in uncertain, scary situations. Instead of stopping and absolutely refusing to move forward AT ALL, he kept moving forward but also moved sideways while keeping a watchful eye on the advancing herd of deadly cattle and Cujo. Good boy!
Oh, and he did react to a HUGE tractor that rumbled by us hauling a disker and two anhydrous ammonia tanks. He's seen tractors many, many times, just not one as huge and noisy as this one, so his reaction was not unexpected.
Kayleigh rode Chief and my friend Jaquie rode Calypso and all were very good (Calypso was a wee bit on the up side, but settled down after 20 minutes into the ride). We rode about six miles, and after the first mile, Gabe was chugging along at a good walk...ON THE BUCKLE and very relaxed. So pleasant.
Worked Gabe in the arena Monday afternoon and he was very good. My stupid dog kept dashing out of the brush lining the arena right under his nose and disrupting his attention. If the dog runs behind him, he doesn't seem to mind too much, but when she's under his nose, he hates it. But, he needs to get used to it if he's going to be a good field hunter. Can't have him reacting adversely to every canine that appears out of nowhere, especially out on a hunt. So, although it's a pain in the butt, it's something he needs to get used to.
We worked on bending, turns on the haunches and canter departs. Turns on the haunches are coming along nicely, bending is improving bit by bit, but canter departs, oh, are they ever ugly. You know what I mean...trot faster faster faster faster THEN pick up the canter...inevitably on the wrong lead. So, we spent a whole lot of time re-gathering ourselves into a nice trot and trying again and again. We got a couple of decent departs, but nothing to get terribly excited about. It's just one of those things and we'll get it together eventually. Despite the terrible departs, his canter is so, so nice. It's one of those delightful canters you could ride all day long, so smooth, so "up", so powerful. It always makes me grin, and maybe giggle a little bit because it's just so FUN!
Also practiced loading on the trailer a bit and he's definitely getting better. I'm not pushing him to the point that he gets all worked up, but I do expect him to make an effort. Kayleigh doesn't understand why I just don't force him to get on and make him stay there. I could, but I want the whole trailer experience to be pleasant so when he sees it he WANTS to get on, not the opposite. I never, ever want there to be a question about whether he'll get back on the trailer if we go somewhere else! Imagine, stuck out in the middle of nowhere, hours from home with night approaching, and the horse refuses to get back on the trailer. No thanks! For me, that knowledge that he will happily load, no matter where we are, is well worth the time and the patience I have to have with this.