I arrived today carrying a huge chunk of Himalayan salt, determined to find a good spot for it in the paddock, so that the herd has more reasons to roam during the day. I went on my business, also gathering some small branches that the wind had blown off our willows, and soon noticed Snickers following me. He was very interested in what I was up to WITHOUT HIM! What an outrage! I tried stopping and he stopped, pretending he was actually grazing, not following me. I tried turning - he turned as well, all while looking in the opposite direction. I tried walking faster - he did as well, I started jogging - and he trotted right after me, shaking his head and positively playful. I didn't have a halter or a whip with me, so I took it as a challenge to communicate with my body language and intention alone. Snickers responded willingly, put his nose to where I pointed, followed me through tight places and even agreed to place his hoof on a tree stump and do a few steps of the Spanish walk! All while keeping an eye on a competing gelding who wanted to join us - Snickers was not okay with that and chased him away several times, so that we could be all alone.
I then procrastinated in the barn for quite a while, with both of the cats in my lap, as I had just fed Snickers and wanted to give him a break before riding. At one occasion I ventured outside the barn just to catch a glimpse of my boy and two of his buddies playing and grabbed my camera to take some pictures. Most of them turned out very blurry, but I will upload some later and I was very happy to see my boy being the most active of them, galloping, bucking and jumping straight in the air all the time. :)
I also hanged out at the round bales and introduced Snickers to a new toy - one of those thick, knotted rope pieces, intended for large dogs to chew one. I'm going to use it in teaching him to target and pick up different objects. I'm not entirely sure he liked its' texture, though. :)
Finally I tacked up to ride. Snickers was a bit anxious during the saddling as two of his best buddies were taken for a walk right then and he really wanted to follow them, but even at such moments he's rather polite, so I had no problems with him showing me what he'd like to do. During the ride we worked on relaxation and flexing. Slowly getting there, even on the stiffer side. Snickers tried a new trick - to evade contact by hyperflexing, but more leg and more outer rein solved that soon. He pleasantly surprised me with a good leg yield (we did that by the fence, as it had been left without proper attention for a while and I felt the fenceline would help his straightness). At canter he was quite feisty and wanted to rush, so I set up some ground poles and we cantered over them. At first the poles were set too wide apart and I got another pleasant surprise - Snickers widened his stride effortlessly and cleared the poles without a single mistake! And I still remember, how clumsy he was at his first tries over canter poles - always taking extra strides or rushing, or jumping into trot, or... We've come quite a way since then. I feel he's now really reading the distances and learning to adjust his strides. That proved when the canter poles were set closer to each other and he shortened his stride with no problems at all. After that we could shorten or widen the canter strides also without the poles, and at that we finished the session. The weather was cool and wet enough this evening for me to use his fleece blanket while walking off for the first time this season.
And the arena floodlight was finally set up! Can't wait to try it out next week. :)
Just another update - forgot to tell how I got a proof that my intuition is working just fine.
Yesterday I visited our only (!!!) tack shop for a salt block and a vit-min supplement, and noticed that they had some new whips for sale. I saw one I liked a lot and, although I didn't really need one - my current one was just fine - I bought it. It was my payday and I thought it would come in handy sooner or later anyway.
Today Snickers completely bit off the tip of my current whip. I had set it by the fence to which I had tied Snickers to while I brushed him. Silly me.