I fetched in, groomed and rode both Pie and Drifter this afternoon. The arena was freshly dragged by my long-suffering husband, who had also picked up and delivered bedding to the barn. After three hours, both had been ridden and both did very well - it was a very good day with horses. They both worked hard - the actual work time for each was at least an hour.
Pie went first. I had to hike way out in the pasture to get him - and of course he decided to gallop past me back up to the gate so he could get a good drink before we worked - I would have allowed him to take a drink - silly beast! I took him to the arena, groomed and tacked up. Today I tried a riser pad together with the Mattes pad, and the saddle sat more level and I had no trouble with my stirrup lengths. Pie was consistently soft at the walk, and the trot is almost there - there are momentary bobbles where we lose the softness, but it's almost there. We also did a lot of transition work - the upward ones stay soft, the downwards ones need more work. We also did some canter work - the transitions to the right lead were easy, on the left it took a bit more work - he tends to jump into the left lead which probably means my aid and its timing aren't quite right - but we had some good left lead transitions as well. He also continues to have a bit of trouble bending left - due to the tightness on the right side of his neck - but that's improving as well and another visit by our chiropractor (after our dentist visit coming up Wednesday). After our arena work, we took a brief trail ride. Good Pie!
Then it was time for Drift (I've started calling him this rather than Drifter). We did a little free lungeing, then some lungeing on the line - I got a good workout with this as we moved all over the ring. He's still easily distracted - horses in the turnouts moving around, people doing things, everything is a source of distraction - the head comes up and sometimes he screams for good measure. We groomed ground tied in the arena and I was very strict about him moving - if he moved a foot or screamed I asked him to circle vigorously on a small circle until he offered to stop. I saddled, and also required that he stand still for saddling, which he's had some trouble with. I mounted up and off we went. Our walk work was focussed on getting some - any - relaxation - and it took a while. Any time he became distracted, we circled or did serpentines. I wanted him to stretch down and out - a lower head position often helps with relaxation - so I held my hands wide apart and very low and asked him to find the contact. We also did a lot of backing to help him focus - it was very slow and deliberate and it helped. Eventually he began to offer just a tiny bit of relaxation and stretching down - this is very hard for him.
Then we did a fair amount of trot work. He may be a horse that needs to move to relax - letting him trot may help reset the internal anxiety meter. We did a lot of trotting - my objective was for the trot to stay soft and not be rushy or braced. He was very forward and any time we got rushing or bracing, we circled or did serpentines. After a while - we started with short intervals of trotting and built up to more continuous sets - we did end up with some good, fairly soft trot work including some changes of direction. Drift has amazing impulsion - for a short, heavy-set Quarter Horse his trot is amazing - big drive from behind and extension in front. I can imagine he might have scared his prior owner - his gaits are big and powerful and he's a strong personality who requires an attentive hand. I think he has great potential - once we can just conquer the relaxation/focus challenge which is slowly coming along. After the last really good trot set, I halted him and jumped right off and told him what a good boy he was and took him in to dinner. Good Drifter!
(Dawn was neglected - but she's in heat and the boys are going to the clinic so they take priority right now.)