Vaquero was first. He was caught fairly easily. He worked like a champ with our lateral flexion exercises we've been working on, giving to the pressure of the rope halter easily on both sides. I am convinced that he is just very out of shape, so I looked at my watch and committed to 15 minutes of continuous round pen work before I'd let him in.
He was hot at first, and wanted to canter around the round pen. I let him, thinking it'd be a good work out for him, even if I've heard gaited horses shouldn't be allowed to canter much. I needed an edge. I wanted him tired.
After a while, he was more content to do a largo, and then a corto. He was licking his lips and kept looking at me to let him in, but I resisted and sent him around again and again. We did 15 continuous minutes, and in the end, he was even willing to do a flat walk. He was sweating, but not breathing nearly as hard as he did just several days ago when he was lathered and nostrils flaring after 5 minutes in the round pen!
We repeated our lateral flexion exercises, and he was butter. OK, now time to practice standing still for mounting.
I kept the rope halter on him, and put weight in his stirrup with my hand. He stayed still. I put a foot in the stirrup, and he danced. That's it! I sent him around on the lead rope. If he wasn't going to stay still for mounting, he was going to work! He licked his lips quickly and came in, as if to say "OK. I get it. I'm supposed to be still. I just forgot". We started over. He was still, and I picked myself up in the stirrup, but did NOT swing my leg over. I just stayed there, weight on him in the left stirrup, and demanding he be still. We did this several times, and after one more trip around on the lead line as punishment for moving, he was solid! No more moving while I mounted.
Now for a ride. I bridled him up, making him drop his head for me. He just eats the bit. I mean, you'd think I dipped it in molasses, that's how eagerly he takes the bit.
I mounted slowly, easing my right leg over. Would he be still? Would he tremble underneath me and move off before I could get settled in the saddle, as he had been doing? Nothing. He was still. There was no tremble and he let me get settled and pick up the reins before we began our ride in the round pen.
We spent time in the largo and corto, and even a flat walk at times. He tolerated changing directions with only an occasional tail swish, but none of the buck he had been giving me. I've gotten used to his fabulous neck rein, and I just ease him around for turns, lest I go over the saddle with his quick direction changes! After about 30 minutes, we called it a day, ending on a high note.
Woody was next. I spent some time round penning him, because I've been often getting on him cold back, and I think he could use a little extra exercise. I only worked him for about 10 minutes, enough for a sweat, but not enough to get him breathing very hard. He has awesome stamina, however, and it would probably take 30 minutes to get him winded.
With Woody, I repeated the lateral flexion exercises I've been doing with the paso, and he wasn't nearly as good. He is stiff as a board with flexing to the left, and much better to the right. I'll need to be more consistent with doing these exercises.
We did a medium length trail ride of about 45 minutes. After riding the paso, I've got to say that Woody feels absolutely pokey. His walk feels like a crawl compared to the corto of the paso. And it's got even more bounce than the paso's corto. I'm anxious to get the paso out on the trail, where I suspect I can do the same trails I ride with Woody in half the time, and with less bounce. I can't wait to see how the paso negotiates the tougher, rockier trails, and see if he can maintain the smoothness. But I'll wait to do a trail ride with the paso when another horse can join us, just so he feels a little more secure.
I left the paso hanging on a swivel line while I rode Woody. I left him pawing and "talking". He resumed the pawing on our return. So it wasn't perfect, but it was close...