There were a couple of occasions when the people working in the vegetable garden provided distractions - there was a lady who was popping up and down and also making snapping noises harvesting corn. Dawn did one small spook and occasionally wanted to look but immediately came back to the work since I maintained my focus.
In our breaks, we walked over the "safe" pole and also edged up on the "scary" pole - she didn't want to walk over it but without pushing or urging her forward - I didn't want to push since this tends to block forward motion and I also didn't want to focus her on the thing that was scary - I was able to circle her around in various directions and make figures that brought us pretty close on both sides - she was able to touch the side barrel with her nose and even smell the pole from both sides without alarm. We also did a little bit of walk/halt transitions and also some backing - both were much softer - I think the work at walk and trot on softening is coming through elsewhere.
Then when she was rested - she's pretty out of shape - we did another set of trot softening. We didn't work long as she told me that her muscles were tired. The softening was hard for her and she wanted to revert to the curling up as that was her old, more familiar way of going. We got 5 nice soft steps in each direction and stopped with that. It takes a while to establish new patterns and ways of going - I think Dawn will be pretty quick on that - but she's also using her body and muscles differently now and will need time to adjust to that and build stamina for the work, as well as building muscle memory.
We did a bit more circling to approach the scary pole, and when she was right in front of it I dismounted and led her back and forth across it several times - she was much more relaxed about this than the last time. I think pretty soon she'll walk right over it under saddle without a problem, but I'm not in a hurry.
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My old Noble isn't doing well. He's 30, and has had his ups and downs, but has been doing pretty well up until about a couple of months ago. He started dropping weight, even though he was eating his grass and senior feed well. He's gotten pretty thin - I can see his ribs - although his coat still looks good. His nutrition is good, his teeth have been seen to - he's got all but one of his teeth and our excellent dentist says he's got great teeth for his age, and he's up to date on his worming and shots. About a week ago, his manure changed - it's much darker, pretty unformed although not wet, and not as abundant. On close examination (I collected some this morning to show the vet), there is a lot of undigested grass and hay in there, and some small hard round bits - could be grass seeds, could be parasites. He shows no signs of pain - no pawing, rolling or looking at the sides (and he's a demonstrative horse who would tell me), although he's somewhat listless and tired looking. The odd thing is that he seems to be interested in food - he nickers for it but then only eats a little - and is very interested in eating grass - he pulls me to the pasture, although I've also just seen him standing there very still, not eating, on a number of occasions. The most worrisome thing is that he's no longer drinking well - he has access to fresh clean water in his stall and outside and is a big user of his salt block - he seems to think about drinking but then doesn't do it - very similar to the eating behavior. He's getting more and more dehydrated, but still doesn't want to drink.
I also watched him graze last night - he eagerly took bites of grass, but as he was chewing, lots was just falling out of the side of his mouth. We suspect he may have had a minor stroke a couple of years ago - he went through a period of not being able to eat well and his tongue would just hang out of his mouth, but he recovered from that. It may be that he's having trouble swallowing, perhaps due to another small stroke - there are no signs of choke - and that's keeping him from eating and drinking well. When I gave him carrots this morning, he eagerly ate them although a lot fell out of his mouth. He has no fever - I took his temperature this morning and if anything it was a bit low.
So I put him where he wanted to be - out with the other horses - and called the vet, who will come this afternoon. I asked the woman doing the scheduling, whom I've talked to many times, to send a vet with a good and gentle bedside manner - she knew just what I mean since there's a spectrum of vets at their practice, and some are more patient and soft with the horses and some get impatient - Noble is a very sensitive guy, doesn't like vets and also is still somewhat headshy after all these years - we've been together since 1997 - when I got him you couldn't lift a hand towards his face without him running backwards and he still doesn't like his ears touched although he lets me if I need to. He deserves gentle treatment and respect. I won't be doing anything heroic with him - if it's his time, then it is. He's been the very best horse ever, and I'll certainly miss him when he goes. I spent a lot of time last night at the barn holding his head and stroking his neck and shoulders and telling him these things - he knows how I feel.