This morning, Drifter and I did a little bit of work at turn-out time. We worked first in the paddock and then in the barn aisle and parking lot.
We started with some leading work - see the basic leading post on the sidebar for a description of what we were working on. Drifter actually leads pretty well - he just tends to want to end up right next to you rather than an arms'-length away, so we worked on that and on getting a clean halt when I stopped moving - I focussed on where his front feet were landing - when I turn to face him as I'm leading, I want the front foot that's in motion not to pass the front foot already on the ground. He's picking it up pretty quickly - lots of praise every time he got it right and I moved him out of my space any time he got too close, which is his natural inclination as he's very friendly, or if he tried to come up next to me.
We also did some in-hand softening work in the halter, starting with head-down - I think he's done this one before as it was easy, and then softening to backwards pressure on the halter, and backing softly. He backs well in the sense that his feet move backwards in pairs with a nice rhythm, but he stays braced while doing it which isn't what I want. His response to pressure on the halter is to try to flip his nose - I expect he's learned to get a release that way - so I just kept the pressure on when he did it and waited (this is the same thing he does in the bridle - he pushes his nose out or roots - and he does it for the same reason - his riders taught him to do it by releasing). He fussed a bit but is starting to get the idea. I was able to get some softening - not the full thing but a try in the right direction - combined with a shift backwards in weight (I did the exercises from both sides), so we stopped there.
Then we just did some standing around work to help him with patience and self-calming. His job was to stay out of my space and just be there with me. He didn't really settle down much but that will come. He got praised every time he chose to stand still and we got a few nice moments.
This is a good start to build on - we'll be doing a lot more of this in days to come and I expect his progress will be rapid.
Oh, and the x-rays were fine; some sedation was required, which I thought was likely. I'm looking forward to working with Drifter for many years to come!
And I'm hoping to get in a nice trail ride with Pie this afternoon - the weather's pretty nice today for a change. Dawn's still in heat and the arena is a swamp . . .