I had another fabulous ride on Tex this morning. He lined himself up at the mounting block and waited for me to settle in the saddle and give the signal before walking off. We are learning to speak the same language. Our first halt was not very harmonious. I sat deep, engaged my core (nothing), light half-halt (nothing), and finally had to squeeze the reins a couple of times before he went, "oh, you want me to stop." We'd stand a minute and then walk off again. It was pretty dusty in the arena (Flash and Brett were walking around in there too), so I took Tex out under the shady oaks. He is okay with the arena, but he really likes being out in open country. We crossed the dry stream bed a few times and Tex just motored along. He did stop, raise his head and give a hard stare into the girls pasture at one point -- Kersey was swimming in their water trough. The last few halts of our ride were very soft; a slight tensing of my ring finger and then, the last one, just from me sitting deep and still.
Later that morning, on our way back from the peach orchard down the road, Brett and I were talking about Tex and how well he did with me. Brett noted that when we first bought Tex, four years ago, he was fine with being groomed, and saddled, and being ridden. "Yes," I said, "but he was a different horse then. He had so many protective layers over his heart that he was more like a robot than a horse. He was shut down." Brett had to agree, Tex had no personality when we got him. Tex wasn't trained; he was broke.
After four years, Tex has learned to trust us enough to gradually peel back all those layers of protection. He had to work through his fear and come out the other side. Now, he nudges my arm as we walk, he leans into me when I kiss his neck, he negotiates with me about how close he needs to come before I will give him the apple I'm eating, and he tries to figure out what I want under saddle.
It's not a bad life, living here at Oak Creek Ranch. Tex has gone from shut-down, to fearful, to happy. We feel pretty darn good about that.