I decided to try to pony Z on the trail to get to the arena. I can't believe I did that, really. I have ponied horses a ton and often 2 at a time. But I've never ponied a horse off Gem and I really didn't know how he'd feel about it. Interestingly, he has way more respect for Z's space than I ever imagined he would. When she came toward us, he would move out of her bubble so fast - at one point he even trotted sideways! We settled into things pretty quickly, though. I felt myself relaxing and we had a nice walk to the arena. It was an amazing feeling to ask Gem to do this and for him to get with me and get the job done. My confidence in him (and us) continues to grow like crazy. I'm super excited!
At the arena, I tied Z off and rode Gem around a bit. His canter is so nice - definitely his best gait. We played some leap frog with Kirk and Jen and then did some cavalettis and weaving. Gem just felt so great to me. He was responsive, willing, just a nice ride. At the end, I cantered him some and played with stopping and backing. I need to build his canter maintenance - he goes into the canter nicely, but doesn't stay there. We have to put that on the priority list- maintain gait at the canter. We need work there both online and in the saddle. He's a bit lazy, so I've got to find ways to motivate. Ugh - that's hard for me. Some point to point in the front pasture maybe - with a treat at each point. We'll work on it.
Then, I left Gem in Jen's stall/run and took Z for a trail ride. Z was wired for sound! She was willing to walk nicely, but she walks so much faster than Jen's horse. We played with backing, sideways, shoulder/haunches in, just making use of her energy to keep her from moving too fast. We got to a boggy area and played with confidently going through it. I tried to help Jen by riding Lynx through it too, but Lynx was under-impressed and determined to not go through it. Jen ended up getting off and sending her through. Z was unconfident but went through it repeatedly for me, each time making a bigger mess and sinking deeper into it. The mud was to her chest but she continued to go through for me. I really appreciated all her try. I love that mare.
Later, we ran into llamas and alpacas. Z has seen them before, but never so many. And I would say she wasn't confident in the past encounters anyway. We hung around, I got off so I could support her from the ground (she then stood behind me!) and we watched the small herd of 8 move around and show interest in us. Z seemed to calm down and we moved on. She was quite happy to get back to Gem and they called to each other once or twice. It wasn't the conditioning ride I wanted, but it was a fun time with Jen and my mare. I can always work on confidence with Z, she comes from such a right-brained place.
The horses stood tied at the trailer while we ate with Jen and Kirk (Steve and KK were there, too). They loaded beautifully, Jen and I checked out hooves, and then down the road we went for home.
I've had such an amazing weekend. I'm so proud of Gem and the progress we're making together. I'm so happy I got the time this weekend. Life is just good.