Today, I took Gem to Hidden Mesa, a local trailhead to see how he'd do by himself. I've actually never taken Gem by himself for a trail ride so this was quite the test. I was perfectly prepared for whatever he might offer and very willing to simply lead him down the trail and play on the ground if that's what he needed.
He started out pretty calm and I was suprised. We walked a bit, I did a little feet-moving with him, asked him to go sideways down the trail some. But he was really just fine. Steve was with me so we walked and talked and I paid attention to how Gem was doing. We came upon a bridge over a creek and he crossed the bridge w/o a single worry. I was trying to decide if I should mount and decided to wait a little longer.
Another 1/4 mile of the trail and he all of a sudden got very worried. A couple of trailriders were coming behind us and he started to frantically call for them and seek comfort from them. I was actually just starting to mount when they came in view. He moved his hips away and started to get emotional just as I was putting my foot in the stirrup. Now, he wasn't crazy or anything, he just didn't want me to mount and he wanted those horses to call back and make him feel more comfortable.
Steve went on down the trail to do his run and I stayed with Gem in that spot to work with his state of mind. Tons of sideways, falling leaf, backing, and when he started to look calmer we'd stop to rest. He'd munch grass for a moment and then lift his head, call and we go back at it. He was slowly getting calmer and finding more comfort with me in our quiet moments. He finally found a reason to feel ok - after about 20 minutes, and we slowly started to walk back. He was fine from then on. We crossed the water - he stood in it and splashed a little. We did transitions, we stopped to eat grass. I just wanted him to realize I wasn't going to let the boogieman eat him, I was going to keep him safe and comfortable. We found a picnic table and stopped while he ate grass. Ahhhh...
At that point, I thought very hard that I should mount. He seemed ready to handle it. I decided not to, though. I decided it was enough for his first trail experience alone with me. I kept my desire for MORE under control so we could hit this trail another day and pick up from this nice quiet spot. His trailer loading was pretty good, but loading up to go home had him more hesitant. We just took our time and he was blowing and loaded after about 5 mins. I refuse to push him - that's what people have done to him in the past. I want to give him reasons to be trustful of me forever more.
When we got back, I rode Nina. She's ready for the next step in her training. We started with ground work and she was calm and respectful and just a joy. Then, we went to the round pen for mounted work on walk/trot transitions, more soft feel to me on her back and beginning to apply some good communication with my body. She did so well! Next, patterns!
I helped Chrissy next with her porky and her personal space (trot to back up on the ground). She'll be filming in the next day or two, I hope! And Kendall rode Rain for a while. She worked on weaving in and out of trees, go and whoa, and then finished with standing on tires with Rain.
It was a great day! I didn't get to Tina today, I plan tomorrow to start backing her.