I took Mac to a trail clinic on Saturday - not for the "trail" experience, per se, because he has that down pat (duh!). What he needs help with is going new places and being around new horses and dealing with whatever that might bring . . . like, I don't know . . . mares?!
So of course there were mares there - three of them. One of whom he fell in love with right away - a little chestnut Peruvian Paso mare (or was it Paso Fino?). There were about 8 riders on a variety of horses - another mustang gelding, 2 QH mares, 2 QH geldings, an Arab gelding, and the little gaited mare. We started the morning off with ground work and Mac was fine. We bridled our horses and got on and went out into a huge hay field to warm up under saddle. Mac right away wanted to be with the mare, but the owner of the mare had her own problems so she went and found a spot away from us where she could work on her stuff. I got really good help from Susan on how to deal with his distracted-ness and also high energy in that type of situation. I thought maybe I should be turning him in small circles to get his attention on me but she said to actually make him work on a bigger circle, since he has energy he wants to and needs to use, but don't let him get straight - keep him bent. So we did that and he settled down and everybody was ready to move on.
Next we crossed a river and went to a sandy beach next to the river that had a nice track for trotting and cantering. Susan was very clever in planning it this way as the sand was a bit on the deep side so it would tire the horses out and slow them down a bit. We started going two at a time away from the group and then making a small downhill turn in the sand to continue on the track and return to the group. We trotted out and cantered back and Mac started his bucking that he does on the trails with the other horses. It wasn't bad to start so I just went with it, but after we did a couple rounds and moved on to the next exercise - horses going out in staggered starts so that one horse would go out 1/4 mile, then the next horse would follow, then another horse would follow a bit after that - then Mac really kicked his bucking into high gear and I almost came off. Thankfully my one-rein stop saved me! Susan had me canter circles as other horses came and went and then we worked on half halting and letting go, which turned out to be the key. The more we try to hold them back, the more pissed off they get - but if we half halt and show them the pace where we want them to be, and then let them go, they will better stay there and be happier than if we're just hanging on their faces. Something I of course do in the arena but seem to forget if I'm feeling nervous in a group of horses! We finally had a good round and everyone called it quits on that exercise. Then we went to the river to let the horses drink and splash around a bit.
Went back to the trailers for lunch and I untacked Mac and let him have a roll in the round pen. Hosed him off, tied him up to let him dry, and put out water and hay for him while we went inside to eat. I always worry about leaving horses unattended, but he was just fine.
After lunch was trail obstacle and cow-working time! All the horses were tired out from the morning work so they were very well-behaved for the afternoon. The trail obstacles weren't really any big deal (although a couple horses did have problems with some stuff) - walking over a tarp, walking over logs, walking through brush, walking over a fake bridge...stuff like that. The trail that we followed led us to another big pasture area where there were cows. I've never been around cows before with Mac so I wasn't sure how he'd respond, but he didn't seem to care. After the first loud "moooooooooooo" with Mac just chillin', I knew we'd be fine.
We went into the cow field and Susan told us about moving cows around. There was a big tree in the middle of the pasture and we were to move all the cows from one end of the pasture to around the tree. It was great fun! Once we got them around the tree, we cut through the herd one horse/rider at a time and parted the cows just a bit so the horses would be used to having cows all around them. Mac did great and I had a lot of fun trying to pick a cow and move it. I've always thought cutting would be fun and now I'm even more interested in giving it a try!! We moved the herd again to the far end of the pasture, turned them around, and they went running to the opposite end when one of them started running. So we moved them again back to the tree and again took turns moving through the herd.
Susan was taking pictures on her phone but they came out so tiny. You can make out that this is me and Mac because of his coloring, but otherwise you can't really see us!
All in all it was a great day, but we were both pooped at the end!!!