So armed with a headful of new ideas from the Buck clinic I came home to practice what I learned. For the first few days after the clinic I continued to work Mac in the rope halter before I got on. Soon enough, though, I decided to just bridle him right away and take him out to the arena. I still do a bit of ground work before mounting, but in the bridle instead of the halter.
Some of the exercises I do are the "drift" exercise, moving forward and back from a soft feel (with me standing in front of him), backing in circles, and moving "off the leg" from a bump with the stirrup. Then I get on and work on the short serpentines, small circles with the front crossing over, small circles with the hind crossing over, then putting those together for the 180/180 exercise. I also work on longitudinal flexion after doing those lateral flexion exercises. At the halt I ask him to give to contact and then release. From there, I move into backing, and then backing and finishing with moving the front legs around 180 to change direction. Of course in a perfect world this would all go smoothly and easily, but each day is new and some days are better than others.
Today was the first day I rode Mac since last Wednesday, as I work a full day on Thursdays and then Friday went out of town with Paddy to drop him off on trial for a lease. Then I had to work a full day yesterday. The wind is up today and Tomato (my husband's horse) has now realized he is alone in the pasture and so was calling out a bit while I was out with Mac. Mac was very good and did not call back and did not seem nervous in the least to be out alone - not that he ever is, but circumstances have changed with us now having two horses instead of three.
Mac was a little looky with the wind blowing, but he was very very good! At the times he wanted to drop his inside shoulder and move away from the rail, I slid up on the inside rein and practiced a 1-rein stop. After all the warm-up exercises mentioned above, we had a trot around and again when he was feeling a bit distracted I worked on circles. I talk to my horses when I ride, so I told Mac, "I have all day to ride you. I have nowhere to be but here, so we can work on figure-8 circles until the cows come home - which is not a good deal for you, my friend, since we have no cows!" Adopting this mind set let me settle into the work and he settled into the work also. I worked on refining my geometry and making good circles and finding opportunities to soften so he could be rewarded for carrying himself in a soft way. It was a great approach and we didn't have to spend too long on the circles.
We went to more trot work with the feeling of collecting for a few steps, and then moving out down the long side; collect a few steps on the short side, move out on the long side. That went really well! So from there we worked on transitions and then moved up into the canter and did some transitions there. It was a great ride.
I'm really enjoying this connection with Mac, and I think he's finding me to be trustworthy, reliable, consistent, and a good leader - at least I hope so, anyway!
I'm working on seeing if I need to adjust his saddle at all so while I was taking pictures for the saddler, I got one of him standing tied. Unfortunately the shadow from the pole is right on his face so you can't see how cute he looks, but you can see my new saddle pad!
Friday we meet up with his girlfriend Winnie for a trail ride - THAT should be FUN!!!