Today was pretty nice - mid 40sF with a little bit of wind. Almost all the ice and snow is gone, although the arena is still a bit soggy - with luck it will dry out enough in a few days so it can be dragged. Pie and I had a really nice solo trail ride - we did a number of loops away from and back to the barn and were out for about 45 minutes. We did quite a bit of trotting out as well as some nice quiet jogging. He was pretty calm and we stopped and greeted various people, dogs and children on the way. Coming home he was able to remain fairly relaxed. A couple of times we turned around and trotted away from the barn again for a ways just to mix things up. The only time he was visibly excited was when we were within sight of the barn and the mares started running in their dry lot. His head came up and he clearly wished he could join in, but restrained himself and didn't even call. Good Pie!
And then the day got even more special - I took Dawn out to the arena for her first work session of the year. The last time we worked on anything was in early December, and the last time I rode her was in November. My objective for today was just to do some leading and in-hand work. I was delighted - she remembered everything perfectly and stayed soft and willing throughout. We did crazy-walking, walking and trotting patterns using the cones, backing both with body language signals and also in hand, and also turns on the forehand and haunches just using my body language. Whenever her attention strayed, she came right back to me. She was extremely attentive to my slightest movement - she would trot up, stop and then back, as well as do the lateral movements, just based on my movements - I didn't have to use any pressure on the lead at all. Her backing in hand, where I do ask by using soft pressure on the lead, wasn't bracey at all and she didn't duck behind the vertical.
Then for some fun we did some clicker work with the big blue ball. It was in one of the small paddocks - I wasn't sure what Dawn would make of it or whether she would be scared of it, but she walked right up to it and touched it with her nose - click and treat. Within a few minutes, we progressed to her licking the ball, and then being able to nudge it with her nose when I set it in motion in front of us. That was enough for today. She's not comfortable yet with the ball touching her legs, but I wouldn't be surprised if she's playing soccer before long. I like doing this sort of work with Dawn as it builds her trust, willingness to try things - she can be a bit of a nervous perfectionist and I want her to worry less - and ability to tackle new situations.
I'll do a bit of lungeing and ground-driving with Dawn, but based on how she was today I'd say she's ready to work, and to work under saddle. I've noticed recently that she seemed to be looking at me as if she wanted to come work with me, and I think I was reading her right. Good Dawn!