I began to add Combing the Line to our forward movement. With the Driving Line attached to my leather halter now, it is always there when I put it on Milo. So that means leading to and from the pasture is on that Driving Line, giving me the opportunity right away to work on my soft feel, and acheiving a connection with Milo. He was a little fiesty initially, trotting right up to me in the pasture. So I began by Drawing the Bow, and letting him accept the contact on his face. His eye softened, so I led him out of the pasture and began our walk to the barn. He felt calmer, so I started to Comb the Line as I walked, with each pass of my hands over the Driving Line, my torso twisted in unison and I maintained a neutral posture. Amazingly, Milo absolutely telescoped his head forward and down and met my contact. I could feel the energy coming from his hind legs as he pushed himself forward with each step. I was astounded that within two minutes of being with Milo, he was already that ready to "be with me." I Combed the Line all the way up to the barn, and halted in the cross ties.
A friend and her family hauled into the barn to join me on a trail ride. The weather wasnt beautiful or promising, but it was dry at the moment. As I was tacking Milo up, I was approached with sarcasm and confusion towards the "contraption" I had on Milo's halter. I responded that it was nothing more than just a halter and lead line. I proceeded to show the questioner it's functions and benefits, but was met with deaf ears. You can't make everyone want to open their tool box. At least I know that my horse is reaping strong rewards from my reach into expanding knowledge.
Tacked up, we were ready to hit the trail. Milo felt odd after we got off the driveway, and I wished I had grabbed a dressage whip before we left for some motivation, as I was already getting an inverted horse, timid to striding out on the trail. The first stretch of driveways and houses before reaching the trail head had many barking dogs running along the fencelines. Their first initial barks sent Milo scooting sideways, but then he curiously dropped his head down towards them as we followed the fenceline. He popped his head up when we reached the house where the dreaded pojo stick was, and I wondered if he really remembered exactly what he had been frightened of weeks before.
But we made it onto the trail, and after a few winding trails, Milo calmed down and began reaching for some contact. We got onto the first wide logging road which was dry and long, so we all moved into a nice trot, and soon Milo reached down for contact and trotted the long stretch with ease, although it had deep pebble-like rocks recently laid down, making it feel as though we were riding on beach sand. The horses were getting tired after some long minutes on this footing, but I saw the trail turnoff ahead and trotted those last few hundred feet to the turn. Milo had worked himself well being slightly out of breath now. It was a good time to let them all walk for a while again.
And then a bear jumped out of the woods in front of us.
Well, Milo thought so. It was really a brightly dressed green jogger coming right out from the trail we were heading on. All four horses spooked about ten feet sideways in unison. She stopped and said there was a second coming so we all waited with pricked eared horses. Naturally, I saw the next jogger round a corner before Milo and then suddenly she was coming right out from behind the bush as well, sending a tense jolt through Milo's body. No way no how did he want to go down that trail now, there were crazy bear-like people running right out of it towards him! I wished I had a motivator now, but had to defer to the end of my nealry eight foot reins to pop his bum with. We went forward onto the trail, and sideways Milo went again, seeing a killer log on the ground. Ya that was a close one, Milo, you really nearly died.
He finally calmed down and relaxed into the bit again, I bumped his belly up with my spur and we walked steadily for a few minutes. Then Milo turned completely sideways on a trail thats only about two feet wide, and stared off onto the near logging road we could see. Two bikers and their dog were silently riding by! The horror! They were out of sight and we could move on, but Milo kept swinging his head to the right, trying to catch an eye on them again. Within moments, we were near a small stream to cross over, one he had done many times. But this time, there was a totally uneasy and scary looking bridge precariously tossed over it for the joggers. Milo snorted and blew at the bridge, certain if he crossed the water next to it it would leap right at him. Finally, he lowered his head to sniff the water, and took a drink. Silly Milo, lets go through the water. He got halfway, then started pawing. No way buddy, you are not laying down in this. I kicked him forward and he popped out of the stream, head up looking for those bikers again.
We got back onto the logging road, and he calmed down, feeling more secure on a wider road where he could see in front of and behind him. He also liked that one of our fellow riders came up to walk with him in the lead, a horse who was half Milo's stature. Winding our way back on the trails headed for home, Milo relaxed again, and I arced him side to side, tipping his butt and arcing to the left, then to the right, and back and forth off my seat and light leg aid. He responded well, and I let him walk out on a loose rein. We wadded through the knee deep pond/puddle and was only a few minutes away from the end of the trail.
Thats right, my saddle got it's first real chistening, and saw the tangling branches and wet droplets of the bushes. We even saw some light rain on the walk back home, but stopped after a few minutes. It's got to "break in" somehow, right?
I bade my fellow riders good by and thanks for joining me, and brought Milo back to the barn. Then lead him back to his pasture, combing the line and receiving a once again, relaxed and connected horse, even with the prospect of dinner awaiting him in his pasture. Good Milo.