It was time for us to get that done. I have big plans for us this year and I really need to get things going.
The ride went extremely well! He bucked twice and I was able to bring him back to me mentally pretty quickly and move on. The first bucking fit was because he didn't want to be behind the group. I wanted him to try being last some and that was tough for him. However, we worked through it and he settled into the position eventually. He also bucked later in the ride when he wanted to canter and I was asking for trot. That buck was a little more hard core - head down, round back, straight up and down. Again, I got him back pretty quickly and we moved on. My main goal is to help him understand that we are a partnership, but I own 51%. I'm the leader and if he doesn't want to trot or doesn't want to be in the back, that's ok. But he isn't going to find it easier to try to argue his way into what he wants. He's going to find that he exerts more energy but doesn't get what he's after. As long as I can ride out his bucks and stay calm, he'll learn pretty quickly that it's easier to just get along with me and look to me for a plan.
I was on top of the world after this ride. I've dreamt of getting Gem back to this place and working through building him into the best horse I can. He's well on his way and this ride was a big milestone for us. I will ride with a group a few more times and then it will be time to build him up enough for us to ride on the trail alone.
A big day for us both.