This morning, very early, Drift and I had another leading work session - this time Pie as well as Dawn and Sugar had been turned out, so he did some screaming, but we were able to do some good leading work in both the parking lot and the arena, and he did start to relax a bit. Then we walked over to the open trailer door. We stopped about 10 feet from the door, and then I softly asked him to walk in - and he did! No pulling back, and no fish tailing - he just stepped right up. Then I closed the partition on his broad behind and went around to the window to praise him. Having the partition closed made him nervous - I had to push on his butt to get him to move up enough to close it. I went right back into the trailer and he backed out - a little too fast for my taste but holding on to a horse while he's backing out isn't useful. I think he'll be able to back out more slowly once he's less nervous about things. The next step will be to load up Pie first and then Drift, and if everyone's reasonably OK, taking a little drive around the neighborhood. I'm expecting Drift will find it a bit easier to load with Pie already on, which is why we started with the harder work of loading alone. When we got to the pasture, we did a bit more leading work - he started off screaming for the mares and I didn't want to leave it there - and he was able to relax and listen. I was very proud of him for loading so well - it really hasn't been that long since we started working on it and he's come a long way.
In the afternoon, I rode Dawn first - Pie got the day off - and she did very well, despite the strong winds. We did a number of trot sets, including circles and serpentines, for building her fitness. Her softness at the trot wasn't 100% consistent but pretty close - we'll be there in a few more rides I think. When I turned her back out, she galloped off with the other mares to the far pastures, taking Drift along as he followed them in the geldings' pasture.
So I hiked out to get him - thanks, Dawn! He led in very well and we did some leading work in the parking lot before grooming and saddling up on cross ties in the barn. The wind was blowing hard and he was alone and nervous and fidgety, but was a bit calmer by the time I was ready to go. We led to the arena and did more leading work out there - there was a bit of screaming but he stayed responsive. When the leading work was fairly relaxed, I mounted up. He got nervous again, and wanted to move off the moment I put a leg over him - he was looking out to the pastures. We keep working on it, for about 10 minutes, before he would stand well enough for me to mount - including a number of do-overs where I jumped off right after mounting so we could start over. The wind continued to howl - it was downright unpleasant.
Once I was on, we worked for a while at the walk with a focus on getting relaxation. The arena had been dragged this morning (thanks to the long-suffering husband), and I reset my cones and also a maze and some poles, and we used these to help with focus. Within about 15 minutes, Drift was able to walk on an almost loose rein, stretching down, and paying attention to what I was asking.
Once we had reasonable relaxation at the walk, we moved up to trot and we did a lot of trotting - by the end of our session he did some excellent trot work. He was completely sound at the trot, so whatever he did a couple of days ago wasn't serious, which is very good news. By the end of our work, I was able to ride him on a fairly loose rein and ask him to try to stretch down for the contact - he's beginning to get the idea that he doesn't have to go with his neck all cramped up. His halts were good as well and his backing was soft and calm - he ended in a very good place.
I was delighted with my day with horses - it's tiring and time-consuming work if done slowly and patiently, but it's very satisfying.