I decided to take a trail lesson with a lady at the barn on Saturday to help Max overcome some of his fears.
We started out with a nice slow walk up a steep hill, and a loop into the forest. She gave me some good tips on how to keep his focus on me - walking the fine line of letting him look and process, but moving forward at the same time.
She also talked about the fine line between giving him his head so he can look where he's going (especially down hill) but also keeping enough contact in his mouth so he knows I haven't abandoned him. She also mentioned to keep my leg on him, not really giving an aid, but as a reminder that I am there for him if he needs me.
We decided to tackle a few problem areas that day. First we started by walking through a really muddy area, over a stream. Then we crossed 'The Ditch' - a steep decline down into a rocky stream, and then a steep incline consisting of mud and more mud.
I tried to find a good spot for his head, kept my contact as soft as possible, and wrapped my legs around him like a blanket. I also made sure to keep his nose right on her horses butt - at least the first time. To prevent any leaping.
Well, he trudged through the first stream fine. And at The Ditch, he made his way slowly down and at the very bottom did a small jump over to the muddy bank.
Not exactly what I was hoping he would do, but since he did it very nicely and very controlled, without any stress about him, I was thrilled! He received lots of pats and hugs and kisses, and when we got back to the barn, an armful of carrots!
Today I met up with a boarder and we went for a nice long trail ride. We explored a few new areas but it got really rocky so we exited quickly. It was tons of fun trotting up the big hills, taking in the beautiful weather and scenery, then trudging down to the cross-country field to do more water training with Max. He's getting braver and braver every time!!
Here's to more adventures!