I was very proud of both Dawn and Red yesterday. They both came back to me after being very worried about something, and looked to me for guidance and direction, and were able to calm down again after being worried. This is a big deal for me, but you can't make it happen. All horses can become worried, afraid or spook, but it's what happens after that that matters . . .
Dawn continues to do well - we actually got a few moments of relaxation, although not many, in our ridden work yesterday. I was careful not to hang on her mouth, but to maintain a following contact, even when she was rushing or not soft. We also did a lot of circling at the trot - to help her calm down, I direct with the inside rein and let the outside rein relax. My objective is to get her to lower her head and soften a bit and not rush. I don't care a lot about the shape of the circle or whether her shoulder is popping out a bit or not - these things aren't a priority, relaxation and her not feeling trapped is. By the end of our ridden session, she was doing better, and we got some intervals of medium trot without rushing and with some softness.
But the really good thing happened when we were tacking up in the barn aisle. She's had some trouble there recently when she's by herself, since my daughter left about 10 days ago. She got scared there (by a horse running and screaming outside) right after my daughter left and was determined to leave, and nothing I did was going to change her mind. Things have been improving, and I've been able to groom and tack her in the aisle again without trouble. Yesterday was shavings day . . . The barn Dawn is in is set into the side of a hill, with a concrete ceiling and the hay and shavings barn above. We were in the aisle tacking up when the tractor came into the shavings barn, dropped its bucket (crash) and ladled up some shavings (loud scraping noises). This was directly over Dawn's head. Now, she's dealt with these noises in the past - she doesn't like them but can cope - but yesterday she was alarmed - her head went up and she was thinking about leaving again. A couple of days ago, she wouldn't have been able to cope, but yesterday, when I reassured her and talked to her, she was able to relax again - a very good sign that she's starting to trust and look to me again.
Red also did very well. When I brought him back into the barn aisle after our afternoon work session, one of the boarders had set her molded bareback pad upside down on a saddle rack in the sun at the end of the barn aisle. Red's head shot up, he was snorting, and his eyes were as big as saucers with white around them. He looked over his shoulder and fidgeted for a moment - he was thinking about leaving pronto - but he stayed with me as I reassured him. He would even glance over at me - he's one of those horses that really looks you in the eye - for reassurance in between snorts. I untacked him ground tied so he could move if he had to - he stood like a champ even when he was snorting - and then we slowly approached the scary thing. He willingly came with me, step by step, and by the time we reached it, he had calmed down completely, and he was able to turn and go back to his stall without being worried about the scary object behind him. Very, very good!