Today Pie and I got in a quick trail ride - we didn't go far, only a couple of hundred yards from the barn and back again. It was 11 days since we'd had a ride and 15 since our last solo outing. The wind chill was 23F, so it didn't feel that bad after all the very cold weather we've had recently. I'm fighting some sore of cold/respiratory thing but I was determined to ride if only briefly. So I set a time of 2:00 p.m. and just did it. Considering that it was cold and that we haven't been out much lately, Pie did well. His walk was very forward, even away from the barn. We had a momentary balk by the pond when he found the square ice skating area cleared on the ice somewhat alarming - or maybe it was the shovel sticking out of the snow. He was reluctant to pass and would have preferred to turn back, but I just kept turning his head back in the direction I wanted to go and chirped to him and after a few minutes he made it by. Our trip outward was uneventful, although he was very alert and occasionally would look around back towards the other horses and the barn.
On the way back, he was very interesting in moving quickly at the walk and was not responding well to my asks to slow with my seat and was head-shaking when we did serpentines. So as soon as he started thinking about moving too fast - I didn't want any momentum building up - I turned him to face away from the barn and we just stood there for a moment on a loose rein. It helped a lot that he already has done the just standing around exercise - he can stand still even if he's full of energy. Then I ask him to back softly for a few steps - he does this well now - since that relaxation of the top line helps with emotional relaxation - and would then turn him back to the barn, and the moment he thought about going too fast, I turned him back away from the barn again and we stood. All this work was done on a loose rein - I wanted him to choose to walk at a moderate pace and not rush, or else choose to walk too fast and have me do the resulting turn and stand - it was his call. Generally, I follow the philosophy that I need to give the horse a real choice - I want the choice I'm looking for to be easier, but I also don't want to make the wrong choice so hard that it's impossible. After a number of repetitions of this, he was able to walk back most of the way at an appropriate pace. His head stayed high, but he held it together very well. He shows very good signs of being able to develop good emotional self-control.
When we got back to the scary cleared ice square, it was right by a cut off back to the barn. Pie was very interested in darting through that opening. We did a bit more turning and circling and then I directed him down the path the long way round. This resulted in more active head-shaking, and I just "grrred" at him and told him to cut it out. We also did some more stopping and backing - one time I got some brief pawing when I asked him to back, but he didn't persist with that. When we got back to the barn, we did a few minutes of cone work at the walk and with a little trotting - the footing wasn't great. He was very good and relaxed for this, so I untacked and turned him back out with his friends.
Not too bad for a 4 year old horse who's rarely ridden out alone, in the middle of winter - I'll take that - it's a perfectly good foundation to build on. If the weather holds we might get in a few more rides this week.