I spent many hours at the barn today, and it was really wonderful - beautiful weather and a day with horses - who could ask for more?
Pie and I had a very good work session. After some initial walk and trot softening work, we worked on our canter transitions - with the only objective being "canter now". I would cue him and if he didn't immediately step into the canter, I tapped him lightly on the shoulder with the dressage whip - this seemed to work better for him than tapping with the whip behind my leg. Within a few minutes, we had "now". Every transition after that was sharp and immediate - and lo and behold the left lead appeared, even though I was only focussed on "now" and not on him getting a particular lead. So there's no problem with the lead, just a problem with the timing of my cue - now that we've got "now" that will fall into place, I expect.
After our arena work, Pie and I took a nice relaxed trail ride, and had the opportunity to greet and talk to many friends and neighbors - it seemed that everyone was out today, and several sets of small children, some of whom came out of their yards to greet him and pet his face. Pie is a great ambassador for equines, and loves to have his face petted by small (and big) hands.
Then Dawn and I had a really nice ride. She was very calm, almost sleepy, as we were grooming and tacking while ground tied in the arena. I put on her bridle with her usual full cheek single jointed Mylar snaffle, and lo and behold she had no problem with it (those of you who've been following along may remember that I haven't been able to ride her this spring in any sort of bit). When we were working, she was very soft and responsive, and we did a number of trot sets as well as some transition work - I was tempted to canter but she's just coming back into work and building fitness needs to come first. And the bend to the right was no problem at all - apparently the damaged tooth was preventing her jaw from moving to one side which made it almost impossible for her to bend to the right or tolerate a bit.
And here's the evidence (cell phone pics courtesy of Jill, Scout's owner). Here's our dentist, Mike Fragale, working to extract the displaced piece of tooth, while our chiro/vet Dr. Alice supports Dawn's head:
And here's the tooth fragment he removed - the black parts are decayed (the right side in the last photo) - the tooth fragment extended below the gum (hence the bloody bits) - those are Mike's hands:
No wonder the poor girl was hurting. She's on antibiotics for another couple weeks, and then Mike will come back to evaluate how things are healing up.
And to finish my very good day with horses, Drift and I had another work session. I went into this session with the intention not to free lunge or lunge on the line, but to do some leading work and then get on and get some relaxation at the walk. We started out with leading in the parking lot - there were lots of distractions and it took a while before he could focus, but we got there. He may not actually be a stallion - in fact I'm almost sure he isn't - but he has a lot of stallion-like characteristics - very focussed on mares and highly distracted by mares in heat, and with some of the fire and brilliance of a stallion - and I'm treating him as if he were a stallion - he's required to always stay out of my space and work (with an objective of relaxation) even if mares in heat are in the vicinity - good behavior is required at all times, no matter what.
After we groomed and tacked in the barn aisle on cross ties - it took a few minutes for him to settle, we led outside. Once we had good leading in the parking lot, we moved to the arena - no free lungeing or lungeing on the line any more - and we worked for a while on our leading until he began to focus and relax. Then I bridled and mounted up. We worked for a long time - at least 45 minutes - just at the walk, until we finally had some bits of relaxation, where he was able to walk around on a fairly loose rein without rushing and also halt and back without fussing. On the way, we had screaming (at mares leaving and coming back from trail rides and then horses coming in from turnout), turning in circles and serpentines and much figure work involving cones and the maze. At the end, things were pretty good - I wouldn't call him completely relaxed, but I did get a few sighs and head and neck shake outs and some yawns and he was able to stand still on a loose rein. Pretty good progress in my book - this is going to take some time and every small step we take is good.
A very good day with horses, indeed - may all my days be so good.