Aspen has been doing so wonderfully lately.  I really should/need to be focusing on my Level 4 FS and Fin but it's been feeling really good to just enjoy my horse.  We've been trail riding around the ranch a lot lately and enjoying the beautiful scenery here as well as the new big and important job of ponying Tristan and his new pony Thunderbird out on rides.  Aspen has been such a solid horse for this I've been truly impressed with her confidence, willingness, and patience as we lead along this tiny duo.  Today we helped bring in the cows - Aspen in a halter and english saddle ponying Tristan bareback on Thunderbird!  We didn't expect to help but jumped in when it was apparent that the cowboys needed a little extra help getting the mamas and babies in the pens so they could band the bull calves.  

On my way back to the corrals, leading Tristan, and enjoying my mare on a long loose rein it came to me that a little over a year ago I was afraid to trail ride my horse, she was hot and spooky, and we both had weak emotional fitness in this regard.  If I took anything away from my Externship last year it was a new found sense of confidence, focus, and trust/relationship with Aspen   

3-Star Parelli Professional Terry Wilson once told me that at about 500 hours of training/play the horse really goes through a big change.  They become more solid, you can see the changes in them mentally, emotionally, and physically.  It made me curious how many hours I've logged with Aspen (415 hours to date, not including basic handling/OL stuff or undemanding time).  I can really see what he was talking about and we're there!  I can feel those positive changes in Aspen - really coming into her own, maturing, and having confidence not just in me, but in herself as well.    It's been so nice that she is my go-to, no warm up necessary, trusted mount.  That means more to me than any string or task on a levels list.  Don't get me wrong - following the levels program is what got us here, but I can be at peace with not hurrying through Level 4 - it will get easier now that Aspen and I have nearly rounded this 500 hour corner in our evolution as partners, I can have peace of mind that the black string is near, and in the mean time I can enjoy every second with my faithful steed! 

Tristan blowing a kiss to his Daddy (who's taking the picture), Oliver my Pomeranian, and Aspen and I enjoying a ride out the day we brought Thunderbird the pony home :)