While we were trotting, both the gelding and mare herds came running up to the gates in their pastures, right where she could see them. She looked, but when I asked her to just keep on working, she did so without hesitation.
And then we did some canter work. We did the best left lead canter work we've ever done - some circles, and also some long straight stretches. The left lead used to be her hard lead - she would keep her head in this odd position with her nose canted to the outside, wouldn't bend at all to the left and would never accept contact, and would often fall out of the canter. In yesterday's ride - round, soft, able to bend and able to engage and maintain the canter even when going on a slope uphill or downhill, and able to adjust her stride on request. Now understand, I didn't change much if anything to get this - it just showed up.
Then we went on a short trail ride with several friends from the barn - Sugar and Charisma and their riders. Before we went, I unbridled Maisie and put her in her stall for a moment to rest, and drink or urinate if she needed to. On the trail, she trotted in company, and even when the others were on her tail and she wanted to get excited, she contained herself and listened well, regulating her pace just as I asked her to.
She went back to the barn then for a well-deserved dinner. Oddly enough, I think our month stay at the other barn is responsible for a lot of this. We got in the habit of really working every day, and we kept at it regardless if things were going well or not so well from day to day. We just worked, and the regularity of the work, and my expectation that we would work, almost every day, got us back on track. This has carried over to our work at the new barn, and we've also been blessed with mostly good weather so we've been working almost every day. The new bit, and her dental work - which has been ongoing for several years and is finally getting her mouth where it needed to be - has made a difference on the margin in her ability to accept contact. Her ulcers are under control and the chiropractic work we've done has allowed her to use her body properly without pain and begin to develop fitness. And she seems to have mentally grown up as well (at 13!) - the silly stuff seems to just have dropped away.
In an odd way, it's almost as if she's thanking me for listening to her opinions and bringing her back to the old barn again. She's in a much better place mentally and emotionally. Oddly enough, she's started expressing her opinions in other ways as well - she'll ask me to stop at the water tank for a drink when I bring her in, and when I take her out of the dry lot paddock she tells me that she wants me to open the gate out rather than in by bumping it with her nose. I'm glad to honor any and all reasonable requests - I think the horse is entitled to make choices too and don't believe that this necessarily makes the horse pushy or dominant (it obviously depends what the choice is and judgment is required) - quite the contrary - if the choices are reasonable or smart it makes the horse more likely to listen to you when you ask the horse to comply with your choices.
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And a very cool thing happened this afternoon when I went to bring Maisie in from the pasture. The horses were as far from the barn as they could get - several hundred yards. I took Maisie by the fly mask and started to lead her in. All the other mares decided they were coming in too and galloped past us. I let go of Maisie, but she stayed right with me, walking calmly as the other mares vanished over the hill. She was loose, and knew it, but she chose to stay with me until I told her to "go ahead" and off she went. Now that was amazing, but maybe again it wasn't!
It's like I have a new horse - but no, it's really like Maisie and I have found each other again. It's very exciting, and I hope things continue on the way they're going.
(And I made a small addition at the end of yesterday's post with a link to a post by another blogger who added something very valuable to the conversation - check it out.)