Today I decided that because I wasn’t in the best of moods (…) and Woody seems to have been a bit stressed by the times we went out on Monday and Tuesday, that I would be very slow and quiet. We started by playing friendly without the stick and me ensuring that I stayed in Z3 where his saddle would be as that has always in the past been an issue for him. It was actually very good today and he let me stand there and bend his head to one side and then the other. I also did a bit of porcupine in Z3 where the leg would go in order to get one stride over. That still needs to be tidied up but I felt that we were on the way. There was still an amount of tail flicking but I am sure that that will improve as he gets more confident and less unsure. The whole time I worked hard at keeping my energy down so that he could read my intent for everything to be calm and make the learning environment as productive as possible.
When we left the yard, he went through the gate much more calmly and willingly than yesterday and we spent just a few minutes at the gate playing friendly. I focussed on keeping his head down so that he would stay as much as possibly in a relaxed state as Woody has a habit of his head going right up when he is nervous, unsure or just freaked out! Today I decided that I would not play lots of friendly games but instead to focus on having a purpose. This decision was justified when Woody saw the car beyond the building. It isn’t normally there so his head shot up and I could feel his energy building. He is still very nervous of the cars in the road so I decided to play touch it games. Touch the car, walk across the drive to the mounting block, touch it and then back to the car and then back to the mounting block. And this about a dozen times and then we went behind the barn to have a look at a pile of bricks. Touch that, and then back to the mounting block and then the car etc. Backwards and forwards until we were both bored! Then after a good car touch I decided that he could go back to the field and as we were walking back, he freaked out at a car noise behind so I backed him straight back to the edge of the drive and we stood there with his head down until I got a lick and chew and then I decided it was ok to go back to the field.
He felt very in tune after that and I wandered back slowly (after having made a point beforehand of marching everywhere) and he kept in step, stopping when I did and walking backwards when I did. I even almost managed a leg forward, leg straight back! We calmly walked back into the yard and now I make a point of lowering his head so that I can take his halter off while I am crouching down. He yawned quite a bit when I had taken the halter off so I think he was properly relaxed. At least, it felt to me that he was yawning. He stayed for a cuddle, as always and I was very pleased.