Let's see, what has happened since I wrote last? I do believe it was last weekend when we went on our first solo trail ride that I updated Mac's blog.
He is getting better about getting on the trailer. He hasn't been bad about it, per se, but the last couple of outings I can just point him to it and he walks on, which is great! I still have the longe line attached to his halter but in the next couple weeks I may give it a go with just the long lead rope and a dressage whip vs. a longe whip.
On Thursday I worked on de-sensitizing him to fly spray. The flies love Mac - LOVE HIM! It was a big step to get the fly mask on him so now they don't all congregate around his eyes, but they still love him elsewhere so I decided it is time to get used to the fly spray.
We worked on the pasture with him on the longe line and me with the fly spray in my hand. I started by standing far from him and just spraying. If he got freaked out and tried to back up, I instead sent him forward in a circle on the longe but I kept spraying. If he turned to me then I'd stop spraying. We worked on that in both directions for a while and I did finally get to the point where I could stand at his shoulder and lightly spray his legs while he stood still. I called that progress and quit with the spraying on that note. I then stood next to him for a while, shaking the bottle of fly spray. If he put his head down or licked/chewed, I stopped the shaking. Did that on both sides and he stood there quietly while I made the noise with the bottle. That was good progress, too, so I called it a day on that note.
The weather was gorgeous today and I just had to hit the trails. I took Mac to a local state park where there are horse trails. He walked right on the trailer - yay! - and off we went. I was surprised when we got there that there were no other horse trailers there. I got my choice of parking spots so I backed into one that would be in the shade while tacking up and untacking after the ride. It bordered the road and the cars and trucks and things that go were quite loud. The road is up a hill and hidden by trees and bushes so he couldn't see what was making all the noise, but he could certainly hear it. He was a little antsy until I took his fly mask off and then he settled a bit - maybe he could see better and felt safer with clearer vision?
Anyway, I also saw a couple mountain bikers heading for the trails while I was tacking up and I thought today would be a good day to see how it goes with bikes. My plan was to saddle and bridle him up but leave his halter on and lead him down the trail until I saw a biker so that I could see how he'd react. I think HE feels safer with me on the ground so he can see me and what I do in various situations so I thought that would be a good course of action.
One thing I'm trying to remember when working with Mac is to work him equally on both sides, or at least make a conscious effort to work him from his right side. Like humans, horses can prefer one side or the other. It is quite noticeable when longing him - he goes very easily in a large and even circle to the left. When longing him to the right, though, his circle is smaller and he wants to fall in. I want him to be even under saddle and that starts with work from the ground.
Since I planned to walk down the trail with him for a bit, I alternated walking from the left side and from the right side. When I led him from the right side, he was more hesitant than when I lead him from the left, which was an interesting observation.
We came across lots of people walking with walking sticks, and that was it for a while. Finally we came across a man on a bike, exercising his dog. He was nice and stopped (bike riders are to give the right of way to horseback riders - usually I give them the right of way as my horses don't mind bikes and I don't want to cut into someone's "groove," especially if they are going uphill). I thanked him and commented that it may be Mac's first time seeing a bike on the trail and we had a short chat and Mac didn't really seem to care a bit. So that was a good bike experience and I was happy with his reaction, or lack thereof.
As long as we were walking, I decided to stay on the ground and walk on the bridge that is raised over a creek. He probably has gone over bridges before, but not with me so I wanted to see how he'd do with this task. He was perfect and a champ. He walked right on to the bridge and didn't spook at the hollow noise it made as his feet clip-clopped over it. We turned back to cross the creek at another spot were there were culverts set up with gravel over them so it was a different type of water crossing. Again, no problems.
We saw lots of dogs on our ride and those didn't bother him at all. We saw a few hikers, but no more mountain bikers. Oh well - there will be lots of opportunity for that in the future.
It was a beautiful day for a ride and I think Mac enjoyed it as much as I did!