Finally, the hot weather broke - it was still hot and humid yesterday - mid 80s - but oh so much better than it had been for days. And I got to ride . . .
I rode all three horses. Dawn had had three days off from riding, Red four and Pie an entire week, due to the extreme heat and in Pie's case to let him grow a little more hoof. All three horses couldn't have been better after all those days off, mostly spent confined in their stalls - I've taken to calling them my "splendids".
Dawn was forward and enthusiastic, and would have happily done a lot more trot work than I let her do - she's still rebuilding strength from her layoff for the minor hind leg injury. Pie happily walked and trotted briefly in the indoor - completely sound again - and we then went on a short trail ride with two other boarders. He was very alert and forward, but very well-behaved. He and I herded off a horse who was pestering us as we were exiting the pastures to the trail - I can swish my dressage whip at the other horse, right by Pie's neck, without bothering him at all. He did some calling, and was distracted at moments by what the horses in the pastures were doing - at one point a whole herd of them galloped past going back to the barn - but came right back to me immediately each time.
Then Red and I had a wonderful ride - one of the best we've ever had. I think he was happy to be back in work - he's a horse who cares about working and seems to find it very satisfying. The walk/trot transition problem has gone away completely, just by my changing how I think about the transition. This is a perfect example of the importance of keeping my focus on what I do want, instead of what I don't want. Instead of thinking about the balk that I came to expect, instead I think only about the transition I want and how it should feel. It may seem odd, but I think expecting the balk in fact was at this point actually causing the balk - it was creating a brace/block - not physical but mental - and the fussing Red did was him hitting the barrier of the brace/block I was offering him, and the springing into canter instead of trot was him having to use extra energy to get past the block. Now that I'm just thinking about the smooth, soft transition I want, and offering him that feel, he just does it. I find this stuff pretty magical, but it's really pretty matter-of-fact from the horse's point of view.
Red and I also did lots of other transitions - walk to halt, to back, to walk or trot, trot to canter to trot. His sustained canter work was really excellent, and to finish off our ride we took a brief walking tour of two of the pastures.
Three splendids, indeed!