I've decided to stop worrying about whether Maisie and Dawn get any training for now. They both are at a point where, without consistent work, we're not going to make much progress. Just doing an occasional day here and there as the weather and footing permit isn't going to get us anywhere. With Dawn, I need to be able to work her fully, and reliably, at least 4 or 5 days a week to continue her progress. She's actually a lot calmer and more responsive, even on the lead, as a result of the work we've already done. I think when we can get back into work in the spring, when I can consistently have the arena to work in, that she'll make good progress.
Maisie on the other hand is becoming more and more excitable and even spooky. I suspect that this is the result of all the chiropractic and dental work we've had done - it's an odd thing, but sometimes as the horse feels better and can move more comfortably, they feel so good that they become harder to ride and handle. My older daughter is also finding this to be the case with her mare Miranda, who used to be dead as a doornail to ride but is now very agile and spooky. Maisie is also . . . how can I say this without being insulting . . . not the brightest bulb. She's a very sweet mare, but is a slow learner and easily becomes frustrated. You have to insist on good manners with her and also teach her things in very small increments, or else she becomes frustrated because she doesn't understand and gets upset and quits listening. She's also big and very forward, and has been known to buck when she's frustrated or over-excited.
Dawn is so smart that it's almost scary - when you have her attention she learns very quickly - the trick with her is that she tends to worry about getting things right (although that's starting to go away the more I've worked with her) and she tends to anticipate, or even overdo things in an attempt to be correct. I'm probably more of a temperamental match with Dawn, and recently I've found her easier to work with than Maisie. Dawn is catlike in her agility and physical capabilities, and has the ability to do huge bucks, has a history of spooking and bolting on the trail, and in her past used to rear a lot when she was over-pressured, although thankfully the rearing seems to have almost entirely disappeared.
Sometimes I wonder about working with these horses - they're certainly not the horses I'd have chosen at this stage of my riding life, although Maisie used to be pretty good on the trail and I think that Dawn and I might end up being a good match. I'm not getting any younger - I'm in my late 50s - or more agile, and my reaction time is not what it used to be. I used to be able to ride my way through pretty much anything, but I doubt that's the case anymore, and even if I could, I'd rather not. I know pretty much what work needs to be done with each horse, although I'm certainly far from an expert - the issue is more my own will to get it done and perseverance in carrying the work forward in a systematic way.
For now I don't have to decide what I'm going to do with either horse. Every day I will be working with them a little bit with our leading and grooming, in any event. We'll probably also do some more clicker training for fun. I'm also going to be thinking hard about what other activities I enjoy now, or could enjoy in the future, with horses, that might or might not involve riding.
I expect when spring rolls around that I'll be pretty interested in continuing serious, systematic work with both horses. It'll be nice to have a period to think and reflect, without feeling guilty or worried that our work is not advancing. Sometimes I've found that a break like this can be energizing, or can result in changes of perspective.
Please enjoy your day, and may it include horses!