As I brushed her and took the tangles out of her tail I found myself getting calmer and calmer. I even tried french braiding her mane. I've been letting it grow out and it's almost long enough to do her full neck. As I was braiding her I saw that she was just standing there, one leg cocked, soaking up the attention and realized that that was success too.
Today dawned sunny and clear so once Cynthia arrived we headed out to get the horses. This time Carmen walked up and sniffed the sand pile (of death). As she sniffed it she seemed to be saying 'oh this isn't anything'
In the ring we started with our in hand work and she immediately relaxed into it. Not that she wasn't spooky in places but she was so much more settled and focussed. She snorted and blew and just seemed to be understanding and relaxing into the work. We lunged up and down the ring and she was very good.
We walked over to the side of the ring and I slipped off her halter and put on her bridle. I then walked to the middle of the ring and did some work on getting her to yield to the bit. She does much better on the left than on the right and I thought that I would try some carrot stretches later to see if she could learn what I wanted.
My next task was to tackle standing at the mounting block. I don't like it when horses walk off as or right after I mount. I decided that the best way to work on this was to not worry about mounting (I know, I know, I can be slow sometimes). So what I did was ask her to walk to the block and stand. I then gave her some pats and then we walked off. After repeating that a few times I introduced the idea of me positioning her at the block- I used a dressage whip so I could stand at her head but ask her to yield her quarters over to the block. Then more scratches and we walk off. After a few of these I stood on the block and then put my foot into the stirrup. She began to walk off. I simply hopped off and we repeated the above. Then I put my foot in the stirrup and mounted. She stood there. I reached forward and scratched her on her favourite spot. She wiggled her lip. Cynthia looked at us.
"ta dah" I smiled. And then asked her to walk off.
The next step was for me to be ride with clear intention so she knew what I was asking. What I figured out is that if we disagree- say like when she wants to follow Irish and I say no- she gets tense and then she's far more likely to find something to spook at. I can feel her looking around. I don't think that it's deliberate -I'll show you- kind of thing, but more that when she's tense she's far more reactive. Keeping her mind busy and my body relaxed seems to be the key to working through that. When she's not sure about going forward I find small, short aids work better - she does not like to be squeezed.
I worked on riding her around the ring and keeping her with me. At one point we were trotting and she picked up a canter. Rather than argue I decided to go with it and rode it a few circles and then brought her back to the trot. Then we walked and halted.
okay we're done
umm, no. we're not.
yes. I walked, I trotted, I cantered. We're done.
I think we can do more.
So I asked her to walk off. I even gave her a long rein- this is the first time I could trust that she wouldn't spook on me.
I was smiling as I dismounted.
We're getting there.