On day three, Drift and I were outside again - I'd had only an hour break between my ride on Dawn and my ride on Drift, and I'd eaten some yoghurt and fruit and been sure to drink a lot of water before I got him ready. We started out working on confirming our mounting work - it didn't take any time at all to have him standing nicely on a loose rein as long as I liked as I mounted and until I asked him to move off.
Then we did more walk and trot work on softening, pace regulation and transitions. He was doing a bit of his head popping up in downwards walk/halt transitions - Mark just had me not release and ask to soften - initially he would brace and keep moving his feet backwards, but pretty soon he figured out he could just soften his head instead of moving his feet.
He was able to do walk/trot transitions pretty nicely and consistently without trying to leap into the canter - he did a few but was able to come right back to trot and keep going, and pretty soon he was just trotting when I asked. Now that he's breathing better, he can handle the trot work better, even though he was tired on day three. He's still learning to do a bigger, more open trot but Mark said that'll come along with time and miles.
Mark said he was doing very, very well - he has come an enormous way in a very short time and we're very much on the right track - his softening work and backing are already working really well and he's very athletic and well-built - this is really promising for the future. Mark said not to worry too much about the rough edges at this point in his training. I explained that his foot handling had gone from terrible to pretty good but not perfect for the farrier yet, and his trailer loading had gone from 30 minutes to a minute or so but not perfect yet, but Mark said not to worry about any of that, as it would all come together pretty much on its own as his training and confidence/trust progressed - work on it as we could but don't obsess about any of it. Our main assignment at this point is to continue doing lots of trotting and cantering - just allow him to move and don't worry too much about the details while continuing to work on his softening and transitions. He's not a very confident horse and really benefits from leadership and direction - this builds his trust since he knows I'll be there to help him out.
During our session, from time to time Dawn would call to Drift and he would answer, or he would call to her. Mark said that trailering any distance is hard mentally on horses - a horse can travel on the ground 15 miles in a day, but the horse will see every object in that distance and determine if it is safe - putting the horse in a trailer, particularly for a multi-hour trip, means covering many days' distances (in horse terms) and that can be very disorienting to the horse - sort of the horse version of jet lag. It's no wonder they're stressed by it. Horses will often, when turned out in a paddock, orient their bodies to face their home. And when a horse calls to a buddy in a strange place - like Drift calling to Dawn - that's orienting to a familiar horse - listening so he knows where she is - she's part of home. Despite his calling, Drift was very good and still able to listen to me and work - very impressive for a horse at his stage of training. Mark said his interest in mares wasn't excessive and wasn't going to be a problem - he was able to concentrate and focus well.
Mark said that Drift is a really nice horse as evidenced by how much progress he's already made in the short time I've had him and considering where he started - he has a good mind and Mark said he may end up being your number one go-to horse once he's trained up (I told Mark he hadn't seen the one I'd left at home - Pie - although it looks like Drift's going to be pretty good too) - he really has try and wants to do what you ask when he understands it. Mark said he's likely to be a pretty nice trail horse too - although he was very worried and spooky when I got him, he did very well at the clinic with all the noises and sights and Mark confirmed that having him on a magnesium oxide supplement was a good idea. Now that some of the worries have been resolved for him and he's able to breathe, it's just a matter of time and miles - there's really nothing wrong at all and the little things will fall into place over time. Just let him move a lot at trot and canter - don't worry too much about the details as he learns to carry himself - a lot of the "gumbiness" - wiggling around and tendency to overflex vertically and laterally will just go away on its own - he's basically a green/baby horse in his response although due to his age he should come along very nicely.
I must say I was delighted that Mark liked Drift so much and thought he had such potential - that's what I was hoping for when I got him but you never know and our first several weeks together were pretty challenging. I think Drift's everything I thought he would be, and miles and time will do the trick.
I can't say how delighted I was with my clinic experience with both horses - it was an amazing opportunity for all of us and our path forward is now clear to me. Riding with Mark is such an empowering experience and both horses and I really benefitted.