Magic's last day is tomorrow. He still has a is prone to spooking at silly, everyday things, but he really has improved and gotten a lot calmer over the last 6 weeks. Since my last post, we have worked on circle driving quite a bit. It was a good exercise for him because it is one of the only ones where you can desensitize the horse while they are in motion. With other desensitizing exercises, you want the horse to keep still. With circle driving, you want your horse to trot in a small circle around you while you rest the end of your stick on their withers (btw--Magic did not like that at first!). Once they are relaxed about that, you can start moving the stick around (rubbing them, holding it up in the air, moving it like a windshield wiper through the air along their side, and then do the same only allow the string to windshield wiper as well.)
I desensitized him to a plastic grocery sack tied to the end of my stick, took him for a walk and worked on going through puddles, did the Jefferies Method, reintroduced the saddle (desensitized to putting on the saddle pad and saddle, swung the stirrups, "dropped" the stirrups, slapped the stirrups and "spanked" the saddle with my stick. Between every exercise, I made sudden movements or touched his girth area or flanks unexpectedly to try to help him understand that he could stand still and relax when startled. It has helped him tremendously.
We worked on backing. He backs great when startled or spooked, but I wanted him to start backing calmly while using his brain, rather than throwing himself backwards in reaction to pressure.
I didn't actually swing my leg over, but today I stepped up in the stirrups a number of times. He was definitely more relaxed with me on the left. On the right, it was pretty obvious he was thinking about taking a nip at me. I waited until he actually made the attempt, then backed him aggressively and then went back to stepping up in the stirrup like nothing had happened. He didn't try biting anymore after that.
We finished off today with desensitizing him to the spray bottle and then was able to use detangler to comb his mane and long, snarled up tail. He looks like a new horse!
D., as of today, Kid 1 has decided she is in love with Raven. Kid 1 had only ridden Raven briefly that one time when we first started riding her. This morning, Kid 1 rode her for a couple hours and afterward couldn't say enough about how much "I love this horse!"
While I do want to work on smoothing out Raven's tendency to trot instead of gait, her lope is one of the nicest I've ridden. She is so smooth, it's like floating!
We had 3 different riding lessons this morning. When we first went out to get the horses ready, Kid 4 wanted to ride Sweetheart, but she was being reactive and dancing around a bit. Kids 1 & 2 took turns riding Sweetheart for a while to help her settle down. After that, Kid 4 was able to ride her around our outdoor arena without any difficulty.