The heat index is up to 94F this afternoon, and it's supposed to hit almost 100 tomorrow and into the 90s again Wednesday. I've been turning my horses out extra early and bringing them in at lunchtime - our pastures have no shade whatsoever. Pie gets very hot in his dry lot - he does have a shed but the ground is hard and bare and probably makes it even hotter than the pastures. Pie also is still adapting to the heat and humidity, and he's also not fit right now which means his heat tolerance is lower. He lets me know - he comes to his gate and asks to come in.
Any riding that gets done happens in the early morning. When I brought Pie in to tack up, he seemed the slightest bit sore - not striding out as well as I'd like, so I gave him one gram of bute and the day off. I think he might have found the hard rocky trails yesterday a bit too much for his feet - he got trimmed last week, and although we left his frogs and soles pretty much alone, the ground is like concrete - we've gone from torrential rain and cold to no rain and extreme heat just like that.
Dawn and I had a nice, very forward trotting ride. She was enjoying the morning cool and was full of energy. She did some nice shortening/lengthening of trot and some spiral in/out work, and her stretching down was pretty good too.
By the time Drift and I started work, it was beginning to warm up. He was very good leading in and on cross ties - not a single scream, although he'd been screaming to Dawn from time to time while I was working her. His initial trot work was quite good - his trot is starting to open up and relax and he rarely thought about cantering. Then we did some canter work - it was really nice. We started on the right lead, and although it took him a few tries to get the correct lead, once he was on it he cantered very nicely - his breathing was good almost from the beginning - regular and deep - and as a result there was very little head throwing or leaping and the canter is starting to be more rhythmical. His right lead has always been the harder one for him, so this was excellent progress. The left lead was easier, and we did some work using more of the ring.
We rested for a bit, and then I asked him to do some more trot work. At that point he tried a trick that he hasn't tried with me before. Although he's generally quite willing and cooperative now that he's accepting my leadership, I believe he also has learned some behaviors from his interactions with his prior owners and handlers - he's learned that if he does x then his handler does y - he's trained his handlers or they by their reactions to his asks have trained him to do those behaviors. He's a pretty smart little horse and he was pretty used to doing just what he wanted when I got him. This was the origin of his bad ground manners and his poor loading and his poor foot handling - he'd learned that if he barged or didn't load or wouldn't pick up his feet he could do what he wanted and he hadn't been taught what he should do instead.
We've mostly worked through the ground issues and the loading - there are rough edges but things are pretty good. His bracing on the bit is pretty much gone and he rarely attempts to go where he wants when I'm riding - he started out trying to go to the arena gate. He's much more able to work for extended periods of time - at the beginning he would get petulant if you asked him to keep working - his tail would swish and you could mentally hear him stamping his foot.
Today he apparently decided that it was hot and he was tired and wanted to be done. When I asked for a walk/trot transition, he balked and attempted to veer around towards the gate. I used my hand on my leg as a secondary cue and when that didn't produce an immediate response, I took the tail of my reins and whacked him (not very hard) on the shoulder. After a couple of repeats, he trotted off again. Now I should add that sometimes balking can be the result of pain, fear or badly fitting tack - I don't believe any of those were the case with him - he just decided to be done and used a technique he'd been "trained" to do in the past. The other reason I think it was a learned behavior is that the bracing came back at the same time - he was reverting to his old way of going and the bracing was part of that. Very shortly after that, we were back to doing very nice soft walk/trot transitions, and we did a whole set of those in both directions, as well as some nice trotting, before we were done. Although some of his behaviors can seem dramatic, and were perhaps intimidating to his prior handlers/riders, it usually doesn't take much to talk him out of them - "oh, well, I guess I can trot if you really want me to" - if I'm just persistent and focus on what I do want him to do and reward him for doing it.