But then it turned into a somewhat grey day - here the mares are (one gelding in the background) hanging out waiting for their round bale to arrive:
When the round bale came, both Dawn and Maisie were taking naps in the hay, and had to get up (poor dears!) before they could eat from the new bale.
This afternoon, Maisie and I groomed in the parking lot and then we tacked up and went out to do our work. As we did yesterday, we went up to the hill behind the barn to do some work on the lunge. That's when something interesting happened. Maisie made it very clear that she would prefer not to lunge, by essentially asking if she could please not trot. I asked pretty strongly by walking fast, slapping my leg with the tail of the line and even moving behind her and swishing the line. Nothing but walk - no annoyance or fits, just no trot. What I'm trying to say is it didn't feel at all like "disobedience" or "disrespect" - not that I use those words with respect to horses, but you get what I mean. I confirmed that it was not a soreness issue by trotting her in hand, which she did easily and willingly. When I asked her to move up into the trot again on the lunge, she didn't want to trot and in fact looked at me in an inquiring way and then stopped and looked at me with her ears pricked. It was very clear to me that she was asking me if we could do without lungeing, and in fact I'd say that it was more than that - she was telling me that she didn't need lungeing in order to do the under saddle work that was coming next without getting too excited. It was sort of eerie.
So I walked up to her and said "are you sure we'll be OK?" and then took her back to the barn and put on her bridle and mounted up. We started our work in the arena, and were able for the first time this year to do some fairly relaxed trot work in straight lines, using the long sides, diagonals and making large circles. I was even able to do this in rising trot, which sometimes will get her moving too forward. She felt great and was moving well. We walked for a bit so she could catch her breath, and then we did some figure work at the sitting trot, including some very nice soft leg-yields. Then we went on the trail and took another new loop past a construction area - large piles of dirt, stakes with signs and ribbons - and although she did a bit of snorting, she was great the whole way out and back.
I was right to trust her and listen to what she was saying - she was right, we didn't need to lunge. I don't do groundwork as a routine matter - I'm not a big believer in doing the same exercises over and over again with a horse once the horse gets it - only if needed at a particular point in training or in getting back to work. Maisie's made it clear that she's willing to tell me what she needs, and I'm willing to encourage her to do this. I like it a lot that she feels willing to tell me things and ask for things - it means we're having a real two-way conversation. I feel like today was an important milestone for us - we've been together for almost 8 years and our relationship is still growing.