Tonight E was tired, so I did the longe line work with Dar while she provided running commentary and tips. I loved it, because Dar and I were training together, working at a pace that was perfect for both of us. First, I put him through walk-halts. My daydreamy doofus needs fewer reminders now; I think he's gotten the hang of whoa. We moved on to walk-trot transitions. We're looking for quicker responses from Dar, wanting to keep him attentive, not wandering off to some greener pasture in his mind. I mixed things up, throwing in a surprise halt here and there and changing directions. Then I worked him in trot for several minutes, up and down the soft, shallow slope at the west end of the grass outdoor arena.
When Dar was examined by the vet before I got him, she told me "Ride this horse up and down hills and slopes at walk and trot for the first year. He needs to build muscle strength; he has very little right now." She was right. It worried me how his hind legs looked back then. From hip to hoof, they wobbled and undulated like thick noodles. His hooves seemed to roll on their outside edges. All that's gone now -- the consistent good care has built him up -- but now it's time to begin to shape and strengthen the muscle that he's recovered.
Trotting the slopes is hard work for Dar, but exactly what the doctor ordered. Leaning on the line would be an easy cheat, but he didn't do that tonight. He settled into a steady pace and I kept the line light in my hand. It was quiet and still, just the sound of Dar's hooves, one-two, one-two, thudding softly on the grass. Reverie, that's what they call it. I watched him trotting, watched him passing between me and the sunset each time around. For a second, I was guilty of daydreaming myself, struck by his beauty, imagining what it will be like to ride him. I snapped back into the moment when he lowered his head and blew out, releasing that wonderful snorting exhalation that means a horse has relaxed, feels safe, and is content in his work. Music to my ears.
We are training this young horse. Part of me can't even believe it.