Great day for a ride, clear skies and about 82 degrees. I went to the pasture and settled on riding the first horse I caught. Woody consented after a little evasiveness. We saddled up and I jumped on him "cold back". We walked and trotted right on out. No fuss or complaints from him. After he was a little warmed up, I used every open piece on the trail to canter him. As usual, he offered no complaints, and he responded to my cues to go directly into the canter from a walk or even a dead stop. I avoid trotting because of my back, and because I can on him. It's fun to go from stopped cold to a canter without a walking/trotting/bumpy start. It's 0-60 and then lift off!
We worked on cantering on each lead, left and right. Then we put in one trail in my neighborhood. Great fun.
I headed back to my front pasture, but stayed in saddle. I rode over to Vaquero and threw a halter and lead rope on him, and proceeded to "pony" Vaquero. I was thinking that by keeping Vaquero slightly behind Woody in some long circles and trips around the front pasture, it would simulate that Vaquero was actually DRIVING Woody, and might give him some confidence. Woody is top gelding, and Vaquero needs some confidence and to know he can trail ride alone. Similarly, Woody could stand to be driven around a little, since it rarely/never happens, and Woody can be a little bossy with me. It was also a great test of my horsemanship, since riding at a trot and canter while ponying another horse can really test your skill to hold it all together: speed control, your horses reins in one hand and a lead rope/tugging horse in the other. It felt great!
Armed with that confidence in both Vaquero and myself, it was time to hit the trail solo with Vaquero. We headed out; only he didn't want to go. He side passed and kept turning his head to see Woody. This was ridiculous. I spun him him hard for a circle or two, then let him relax. He needed to be worried about me, not leaving Woody. But I couldn't do too much, or then he could get terrified to leave with me and be convinced he was unsafe to leave Woody. I pushed him out again, and again he started a little dance. NO! I spun him hard the other way; and I mean I reached down and grabbed the rein on one side damn near his bit and brought his head around until he was spinning and I had full control. I was NOT going to let him buck or get out of this. But I was careful to make moving out easy and I gave him breaks to just relax with a loose rein. He let out a big sigh during the relax portion of our exercise, and I could feel him say, "Damn, I really thought I was going to get out of this one, but this guy is determined."
We headed out again, and despite a few look backs with longing and despair, there was no more foolishness. The further we got from the ranch, the more he looked forward. There were other horses to get his attention, and various other distractions. That, and his inbred to desire to move out, kept his feet moving and the distance from the ranch growing. I tried to use that move out desire to my advantage.
We met other riders on their horses taking advantage of the great weather. So after a while, I felt him relax and we enjoyed a nice brisk walk and a smooth paso corto for much of the ride. I actually felt him start to enjoy himself. In fact, I think he rode more smoothly during this solo ride than he has in quite a while. He got sweaty, but not the ridiculous sweaty he can get when he's nervous or anxious. This was an honest ride kind of sweat. We did two trails, and headed home. He picked up the pace, but was controllable headed home. I think I heard him call out to Woody, waiting indifferently in the pasture for his return, "I made it! I'm in one piece! Can you believe it?".
I turned him out with Woody, and both horses will enjoy the night air under the starts tonight in the front pasture. I will too, with my kids and some steaks I'm throwing on the grill as soon as I stop typing. Did I mention the kids had their first swim of 2010 in the pool while I was riding? It took me 2 weeks, but the pool is in swimming shape, but way too frigid for anything but pool crazy kids desperate for a swim...Enjoy the evening.