By far. Laredo was wonderful today. He walked right up to me in the pasture, and things just got better from there. Working around his head with the flymask and headstall, grooming, and leading were all really great.
I suppose the only not so great moments occured with groundwork. We are improving a lot with getting him to follow a feel. It doesn’t always work.
But sometimes he gets with me very easily. Here it looks like I’m going to swing the end of the mecate, but I only brought my arm up after he didn’t follow the initial feel. It is nice not to have to swing it.
However, he does not want to back away from me unless I can get to the slobber strap, in which case he’ll back away just fine. But if I send him around me and then disengage his hindquarters, he does it beautifully and then waltzes in expecting pets. Standing firm and shaking the rope does not deter him. So I had to increase the pressure and send a bigger signal.
Instead of shaking the mecate to suggest he back, I’d twirl the end around and present a barrier. This actually kind of freaked him out, and he would take off running circles around me. He is so unbelievably mellow that it is kind of nice to see him move with some spirit. I worked at this for a few minutes, always trying to shake the mecate less than I had to. In the end we got to a nice stopping point when he looked to come in and I gently shook the mecate and he took a big step back. Perfect.
I climbed on and he was very relaxed. His flexes felt great, and he was giving to the bit very nicely. If I had not asked him to do anything for a few moments it would take some time for him to feel me again, but that wasn’t too bad.
For the rest of the ride we saw drastic improvement in everything but our backing, which probably stayed about the same. When we walked in circles he was much more likely to shape his body to my legs. If I needed to bring up the inside rein, he would tilt his nose in and collect as well. Our serpentines started out feeling better than they ever have before. There was still a stick when we’d go from right to left, but he was softer to my hands and legs AND we were getting more bend and more reach from the front feet. And the serpentines only got better from there. We eliminated the stickiness starting to go left, and the expression on his face kept changing. He looked like he was understanding what we were doing.
In the circles we spent a lot of time working on a soft feel, briefly collecting to zig zag through the center and change directions, and occasionally leg yielding out when he was inclined to cut in. He didn’t love that, but he started to understand it a little.
We also moved into the trot. This was my first time trotting with him. Initially it was actually his idea, but as he is so quiet and mellow, I decided to go with it.
From that point on I would periodically move him into the trot for a circle and then ask for a soft feel and bring him back to the walk. Our downward transitions were not very pretty. In the middle we did have a couple that felt very smooth, but later on they went back to taking 10 yards or more to complete. I know part of the problem is that I’m not used to his movements yet. I’m hoping once I know his trot a little more I’ll get better at feeling him down into the walk.
Towards the end of the ride we were walking up and down the fence line just relaxing and occasionally picking up a soft feel. He was very ready to be done and kept drifting over to the fence. As it is electric it is not my favorite thing to get close to, I started working on more leg yields. While we could get them in the circle a little bit, he was not happy about them here. He was actually more inclined to go into pressure and bring us closer to the fence. I didn’t feel great about that, and I’m sure he picked up on it. Then a bird flew by or something and he spooked. But it was the tiniest little freeze in place spook. I still can’t believe how mellow he is. It is unbelievable. I know there will be bigger spooks in our future, but it is nice to feel a little one first.
After the ride he was following me around and then falling asleep at the hitching post. He is really getting so much more comfortable with us. It kind of feels like it has taken awhile, but we’ve barely had him over a month, and we were out of town for a week of that. So things are going great.