Last night was Tristan's fifth ride since August. We're still walking only, but in those five rides - one a day except Tuesday, which I took off to give him some recovery time - we've walked inside and outside, uphill and down, in the ring and out of the ring, with other horses and alone, within and beyond sight of the barn, and last night's ride was bareback.
He's been an absolute rock star. I've always known he has one of the best brains in the world, but on his first ride the barn cat leapt down from the arena wall directly behind him - and he barely flinched. Last night, when I was bareback, he kept focused when the tractor started up directly next to him, just outside the indoor. He also let me vault onto his back from the ground, with much flailing and some kneeing in the ribs.
The vet was there to see the pregnant mare (baby in July!!!) and I took him out to show off his awesome-looking foot, and she had me jog him out at the trot for a few strides and gosh, he looked good. Springy and floaty.
He was short in the hind end for the first few rides, but I've asked him in each ride to loosen a bit more, take a few steps under himself, sideways, into the bend - not much, just a teensy bit, and a few steps at a time, and he's unlocking there, stepping through bigger and more evenly.
I'm still pondering what our step up will be. I think on Saturday morning, before I head in to work, we'll move up to 30 minutes of walking, and do a bit more hill work (considering we are doing, at most, one hill per ride right now, so a minute or maybe two, we may do 5 minutes). I may add trot the week after that, and then increase our walking time the week after that, then add in more trot. There's no reason to rush; I'd like to get out fox hunting at some point this summer, but the season doesn't properly start until the fall, so it would just be hauling him over to the kennels to acclimate him and to hack out with my friends.
Best. Pony. Ever.