Pie and I had a nice solo birthday trail ride - it was a lovely day (for a change) - in the 50sF with some sun and not too much wind. We went further than he'd gone before by himself, and he was nervous at points, but well-behaved. Good birthday Pie!
After I turned Pie back out, I brought Drifter in - he was nervous without any other horses around. I free-lunged for just a moment, and then he was OK and I was able to ground tie, groom and tack up. At some point, Charisma came into the ring to be ground tied and groomed - he was very interested in her but well-behaved. We did a lot of work at the walk. He started out bracing again, but we worked on it for a while and got some decent softening. But it was softening without being soft, if that makes any sense - for true softening to exist, the horse has to be relaxed and he wasn't relaxed. I'd like him to stretch down and out for the contact rather than carrying his head and neck so high and "perfect" - his face is vertical and he's not pushing on the bit but he's nervous and carrying a lot of tension. There's no point in doing trot work until we get this issue cracked - the faster pace will just increase the tension. After we worked for a while, I got him working on an almost loose rein and he began to relax a bit. He doesn't neck rein, so steering was a bit iffy on a loose rein, but I think he's able to steer just off my legs and eyes. After than, we went back to the softening work again, and there was a bit more relaxation and reaching down.
Then Charisma left the ring - screaming by Drifter and a loss of concentration - but we kept working for quite a while and he was able to get back with me and we got some nice moments of almost relaxation, including some nice walk/halt transitions. We stopped there - good Drifter!
Then I took Dawn out for a spin in the sidepull. She's not as soft in the sidepull as she is in the bit, but we managed some decent walk and trot work, including transitions. Relaxation has been a big challenge for her as well but she'll now stretch down, all the way to the ground, at both the walk and trot. Her trot today was very forward and engaged, but still mostly pretty relaxed. She's come a long way - her normal level of tension is much reduced.
I had a nice conversation with our chiropractor/vet about Drifter's possible hormonal issues - she's an endocrine specialist. She says if he doesn't show overt sexual behavior around mares (which he doesn't - he's just extra friendly and attentive - lots of nickering and noticing mares), he's unlikely to be a rig, or cryptorchid, and that doing the (expensive) testosterone testing is likely to be a waste of time. It's more possible that he's a bit over active in the adrenal department (some geldings are this way), which can mimic the effects of testosterone. This could also explain his nervousness. She'll take a look at him when she's here next Wednesday - she does the sedation for our dentist Mike Fragale - and there may be some supplements that will help him out. I didn't think he was a crypt - he's not mouthy at all and is actually pretty sweet with people once you establish boundaries.