Brett and I made the seven hour drive to Alisal this morning, arriving in time for the afternoon ride. I was assigned Thor and Brett was on Pendleton. Both are horses we've ridden before and liked. Fortunately, everybody else signed up for the afternoon ride were beginners so we got a private ride. Brett and I headed out with a young, relatively new wrangler to the ranch. She asked me if I had a preferance on where we rode and I requested the spring trail. Brett and I haven't been up to the spring in three or four years. The trail is longer than most and climbs up into the Santa Barbara coastal mountains. In order to get the loop completed in the alotted two hours, it requires a lot of trot and canter; including a long glorious canter through a long grassy valley.
When we started out, Thor tossed his head quite a bit and his ears seemed to be permanently pinned. It must be hard to be part of a string, with riders of varying skill and balance on your back. Thor is a sensitive and forward horse so I stayed off of his mouth completely. I rode him from my seat. After the first long canter, we figured each other out, found our rythm and began to enjoy ourselves. His ears went forward and he started to carry himself in a comfortable frame. Throughout the ride, I continued to work from my seat. I was able to get transitions and speed from regulating my posting speed or the swing in my hips -- depending on the gait. He never reached the point of making transitions from thought, but we made huge progress from heavy unhappy string horse to partner.
I think I'll be riding Thor more on our stay here. He tuned in and tried. I love a horse who tries.