It was a beautiful day - it almost feels like spring in comparison to the very cold weather we've been having. It got up to almost 45F, although with the wind it felt like 35F. But it was sunny, and the snow was starting to melt, and the birds were singing, and even better, Pie and I had a ride - two days in a row in February is nothing to sneeze at. (Yesterday we rode around a bit on the plowed circle around the barn and in the aisle to the paddocks, and had a failed attempt at the trail due to deep snow.)
Today we did some work in the arena - for once there were no horses turned out there and the footing was OK for walk work. The snow's melted some and isn't too deep. We did lots of figure work - circles and serpentines as well as straight lines. We worked on our slowing and extending the walk, as well as some halts and some backing. And then, since Pie had plenty of energy and was having to push from the rear to walk through the snow, it was a perfect opportunity to start some real softening work. We worked on softening at the walk, starting with working to get 3 soft steps followed by a big release - to make sure he got the message that he was doing what I wanted; the releases can get less dramatic as we continue to work and eventually he'll find his own release by my keeping my hands still. Once we were getting 3 steps repeatedly in one direction, we did the other way and then alternated directions. We took a break on a loose rein for a bit and then did more softening work, ending with him being able to repeat 5 soft steps in each direction. I didn't want to do more today, as it was very hard work for him to walk through the snow and carry himself differently. As always with softening work, it wasn't the head position so much as the feel of him engaging his core, lifting from behind and letting go with the top line that I was looking for.
Then, although I'm not a big fan of riding on pavement - Pie's barefoot which makes it marginally safer than if he were shod - we walked down the street in front of the barn - it's a quiet street with very little traffic - for a couple of hundred yards until we reached a trailhead where there was a path beaten down in the snow. (The snow's too deep for safe riding on almost all of the trails.) We tried this trail for 50 yards or so, but the footing was very slippery and neither Pie nor I liked it, so we turned around - I asked him to take a few more steps in the direction we were going when he wanted to stop, and then turned back. We walked back the way we had come and past the barn for a bit and then turned back.
Nothing but walking, but it was a very productive ride. Good Pie!