Actually, this winter has not been all that bad. We only had a few days of curse-inducing cold, but other than that, it's been bizarrely warm. I haven't been able to enjoy it very much since I've been back in school (last semester, booyah!). But I've still done some fun stuff.
Royal and I have been playing with the Game of Contact, and so far it's been going well. I had to get a new bit (current Confidence Snaffle was too small and the Comfort Snaffle too thin), and Royal appears to be adjusting well. He still goes best in the Cradle, but seems okay with the current one. But I have discovered that he LOVES to stretch... for a couple of steps. We didn't go through the whole "Reins are short, what to do?" phase I saw with the other new horses. Every single one got stuck and had to be helped through it gently. Not Royal. He took the ground prep that we spent so much time on and went nuts with it. No stickiness, just stretch, stretch, streeeeeeeeeeeeeeetch. For a step, or two. Then he tries to turn into Royal the Giraffe again.
In the past, this would have frustrated me greatly. Damn it, why don't you get it! But Royal's moved like a giraffe on crack for nearly 15 years; I'm not going to change that in a few sessions. It's going to take time, which is fine with me. I have become a little quicker to pick up the contact after he bobs back up and today that seemed to make a difference. It was a bit harder since we had to share the arena with a mare. She wasn't in heat but that doesn't stop Royal from obsessing over her. But, in the end, he held a nice stretch at the trot for 5 steps, and that was a good note to quit on.
I was able to do something I've been meaning to do since October and buy a photo from the MN Hunt Cup. I liked some of them, but one really stood out (credit to Cynthia Fleishman Photography).
I think it's a good one. Royal looks happy and interested, my leg is somewhat stable, and I'm not pulling a hugely weird face. Good times.