After riding Rock yesterday, my husband said he noticed a huge difference in Rock's responsiveness since the horse trainer has been working with him, so I rode Rock today to see for myself.
One thing I'll ask the trainer for help on is keeping Rock off the butt of the horse in front. His slow down mechanism is broken. I get a better result pulling his head slightly to the side with one rein than I do pulling back on two reins. That's something P.S. taught me. Still, the second I release his head, he's on Gabbrielle's rump again.
Gabbrielle refused to pass a couple of scary objects like the fallen saguaro off to the side of the trail up ahead in this next picture.
Ever since I had an epiphany when the horse trainer made a comment about training in the horse's comfort zone vs. training outside the zone, I've been more conscious about where we are when I am asking a horse to do something. In the past, we had been using the method taught to me by last year's horse trainer, which involves circling the horse closer and closer to the scary object. That method got the horse past it, but didn't stop the horse spooking at the same object the next time it saw it.
Now she tried the technique of walking the horse away from the scary object out into an area where the horse is comfortable, and then riding the horse in circles and figure 8's at a trot, sidepassing, and backing up. Then she rode Gabbrielle over to the scary object and let her rest near it before asking her to get right up to it or pass it. Once Gabbrielle showed signs of relaxation, she was able to ride past the scary object on the second attempt. Worked like a charm.
I'm not sure if I want to wear spurs, so I'm going to ask the horse trainer to carry a riding crop on his next ride on Rock, and see how Rock responds to being popped with it. I suspect Rock will tuck his butt under and blow up, then instantly settle down. I just need an alternative tool should he slow way down again once he realizes that the trainer is the only one who wears spurs.
After that, the plan is for me to ride Rock and for him to ride Bombay, so he can see Bombay's confidence and fear issues, and watch me with Rock to see if I'm handling problems that arise correctly. Then I suppose he'll eventually ride with me while I ride Bombay. I'm not surprised that he didn't have many problems with Rock, but I really hope Bombay won't suddenly start acting like a seasoned trail horse as soon as the trainer tests him out. I want him to see these issues and give me some new strategies that will help me help Bombay get his brain back and settle down faster after one of his freak outs.