The discussion turned to groundwork. One of the women has been working with a trainer on her horse, doing a lot of groundwork but having little or no success. Another woman said she wasn’t sure she could see much use in all the groundwork—her preference is to work things out from horseback.
It was an interesting discussion, and I can see both points of view. Some of the trainers advocate constant, daily, repetitive groundwork tasks, and I can see the horses getting bored and cranky. To me, there’s little point in that, and particularly if it doesn’t get the results you want. On the other hand, I know for a fact that I wouldn’t have the relationship that I do with Galahad if it weren’t for all our work on the ground. So there’s clearly a balance.
On the way back I dropped my stirrups—my new muck boots are too fat to fit easily in them, which means I’ll need to take other boots when I ride. Midnight was trotting—he wanted to be in front, and the others were gaiting. Midnight’s trot is a thing to behold, and is loads of fun to ride, stirrupless. (Yes, I’m lying. But it’s good practice for keeping my balance.)
When I got back to the barn I switched horses. Galahad did really well on the way down to the arena barn, despite encountering three dogs (on leashes), two cats (not on leashes), and a huge trailer being loaded with manure. Good boy!
He did get spooky when I tried to ride him out onto the trail. I was planning on going out to the flats, but it took me probably 20 minutes just to get him past the gate and down to the creek. I never did really figure out why, but I did know that I couldn’t afford to let him win this one. He has to learn to trust me enough to do what I ask.
My tactics were just to keep him facing forward, whether he actually moved forward at any given instant or not. I’d get him to move a few feet, and when he balked, circle him back to that same spot and let him stand there and look around for a bit. When he’d sigh, or drop his head (clear signs that he was relaxing), I’d move him forward a few more feet. We kept this up halfway down the road toward the creek before he’d move quietly and steadily.
Eventually we made it to the creek and he got his drink. By then it was getting late and I just turned him around, got off, and let him graze for a few minutes before leading him up to one of the benches and getting back on. Then we rode back in quietly, past all the scary stuff, and I fed him lunch. It was fun, and I think we did well.