I've apparently done something right in the training of Gabe.
Our ride last night was phenomenal. Absolutely phenomenal. He was listening and soft in the bridle and nice and forward. Our walk to canter departs are still sticky and sloppy, but they are getting better, and, he's becoming much, much more adjustable at the canter. I set up a grid of ground poles on a circle to work on our canter extensions and collections and he picked it up fast.
He worked hard and worked well, despite the heat, humidity, countless mosquitoes and nasty horse flies that kept biting him. He bucks when he gets bit, by the way, so while it was a very good ride, it was also occasionally a very interesting ride. Imagine me trying to reach around, locate the offending horse fly, and smack it off Gabe's ass while he is bucking. I'm surprised I didn't land on my head!
I even drenched the poor guy in fly spray before our ride, but those bugs are relentless, on both of us. Bugs this year are insane and don't give the horses a break. The fly spray that worked so wonderfully last year doesn't seem to be deterring them at all this year. Ugh.
Anyway, on to Gabe's most impressive training that became very evident last night. I pulled the cover off the pool Wednesday and spread it out in the yard to dry so we can fold it up and put it away. It's HUGE (our pool holds approximately 25,000 gallons, to give you an idea of how huge the cover is), and, I spread it out right next to the hitching rail and mounting block, not even thinking it might be an issue. Afterall, horses are supposed to be leery of big, scary tarp-like things that could be hiding horse-eating monsters, right?
In Gabe's happy little world, tarps and pool covers are for eating, not for spooking at. I led him to the hitching rail and to the tarp, ready for him to go bug-eyed stupid at the sight of it, and was very pleasantly surprised when he walked right up to it, put his front feet on it and reached down to eat it. Goofball. I led him over it and he didn't care one bit that it made noises as he walked. He was more interested in trying to snatch bites of it.
Good boy! After our ride and a short, cooling-off trail ride, I rode him over it, just to make sure his brain was the same. Nothing. No hesitation, no second thoughts. No worries.
I guess all that de-sensitization I did with my big, silly OTTB early in his training (umbrellas, tarps, plastic bags, bicycles, balloons, pool noodles, gigantic stuffed animals in the arena, everything and anything I could think of to throw at him and drape over him), paid off. Too bad I can't convince birds, bunnies, cows, sheep and peacocks to join my arsenal of scary things to expose him to regularly. Then, we'd be golden in the scary stuff department!