Bandit saw me take the saddle out to our little arena. Snapped this picture while carrying the next load of tack out:
You can see his "I'm alert
" posture is a very head up position. He's also right next to the gate, which is where he still was when I went to get him. I opened the gate to halter him, without bothering to step inside. He obviously is not reluctant to get out and go somewhere.
We just did a lap around the block. About 300 yards up the road, a neighbor was loading a trailer with stuff to haul to the dump. He was putting the tarp over the stuff as we got close. I stopped Bandit to let him look. He was a bit stressed, but I guess he found standing still more stressful, so we continued on. Yes, I had one hand on the saddle horn in case he decided to do a 180 fast. He danced a little, but kept going mostly forward - with slack reins in my one hand. As we got almost abeam the trailer (did I mention the wind was gusting today?), Bandit broke into a trot.
I normally consider that a no-no, but he was tense and I figured it was better than having him try to turn away, so I ignored the no-no and we trotted the next 250 yards. Then he wanted to slow, but I told him that since he wanted to trot, we could do another 100 yards - and he did, without much reluctance. Then we walked.
Took a detour into the desert. It was the furthest we've gone solo to date, which wasn't very far...but hey! The farthest solo is STILL the farthest solo. He was glad to turn around when we did, but he never hesitated about going forward, either. With less wind, we would have gone farther.
When we got back to pavement, we went thru the neighborhood and past the barking dog. That dog ALWAYS barks, and Bandit responded by blowing, snorting and lowering his head and relaxing his shoulders. The dog has barked at us so many times that Bandit finds it relaxing. With the boogers out of his brain, we went home and I shortened the stirrups. The added cushion of the sheepskin has left me feeling like I'm reaching for the stirrups.
With them one hole shorter, we did a bunch of turns in the cones of confusion, and also trotted and cantered. His trotting is MUCH better. His canter was kind of sloppy today, but not horrible. He sometimes fusses with the bit at a canter, but not today. Then we called it quits. I wasn't supposed to work today, but a lady took sick so I'll go in a few hours from now and work until 9pm.
Still...I like the trend. He is getting more confident. He's going forward where he once would have refused. We're going in the right direction, at least.