The group of horses last to arrive here in FL are now up to full work after slowly being brought back into the schedule following their travel. That means HM and I hit the “full work” mark a few days ago.
After lunging her for a handful of days, then lunging before riding for another handful, I made the decision to hop on without lunging. As expected, it took a little longer to work through her issues in the bridle before settling into the work. It’s a process that should, by all means, be incredibly frustrating to ride – and I can imagine it probably is frustrating to watch! Yet, I know this mare so well now, that it doesn’t bother me. I trust that she will come around, and she always does.
One thing I haven’t done yet is take HM on a hack, either in FL or VT. Her go-to reaction when spooking is to spin/run, so it’s understandably something I need to handle with care, in order to ensure she can gain confidence. And, being a mare, you can bet she remembers everything in detail – so it’s in my best interest to approach hacking with the only expectation being that she has a good experience, and continues to build from there.
So, on Friday, we went with a friend on a short walk around the property. I was so proud of her – zero lunging, and I hopped right on her and headed out. She marched right down the driveway as though ready to take me straight to the trails (not yet, HM! We’ll build to that), passed a scary rock pile and various vehicles, came back, and then stood in the parking lot of the barn until she took a huge breath, sighed, half closed her eyes, and relaxed her neck down.
On Saturday it was about 10 degrees cooler than it had been, as well as less humid and a little windy. For a second I thought I should lunge her, but…I didn’t feel like it, honestly ;). I walked her a little longer though, and worked on big, suppling bends to get her back to relax more before trotting. Once trotting, it took about 10 minutes or so before I was able to get her more consistently on the bit. She was a little fussier than usual in the bridle on the left lead canter, and I had to do a lot of balancing between flexion and counter-flexion before she settled in.
Once she did, she. Was. Amazing. She became so light, easy, straight, and even in both reins. She’s so cool, because when I reach this point in our rides, it is incredibly easy to sit correctly. It feels natural to sit back, let my seat dictate the canter/trot, allow my hands to go forward as she pushes towards the bit, and make only the smallest movements with my fingers and legs in order to get flexion/bend.
This coming week, I hope to add in some lateral work and especially practice our counter-canter loops. When I was last riding her in VT, I had just gotten a fairly reliable, fuss-free, counter-canter shallow loop with her, and sorta/kinda started experimenting with half pass. She knows most of the lateral work from her training several years ago, but it’s been awhile. So, while I don’t need to necessarily install new buttons, I do need to refine those buttons and teach her to do it all with this new-found balance, softness, and forwardness. It all needs to come from subtle shifts of weight in my seatbones and twinkling fingers.
This horse, though…
One of many things I love about her is that she is SO talented, SO athletic, and it all comes SO naturally to her (being bred for this), that once she is done telling me that she doesn’t need/want to leg yield and “how could you even ask such a thing?!” and actually buckles down to do it, she literally flies over with such ease. Her hind legs cross like no big deal – if I add a little leg, her hind legs reach across even more.
HM is a horse I had always wondered what it would be like to ride, yet never dreamed I’d be given the chance to try. Once I began, however, it was almost no time at all before I was determined to figure her out. I’m not one to give up easily, once I set my mind to something.
In the grand scheme of things, maybe we won’t ever do anything worth noting. But she has proven to be invaluable to my riding. She has, quite literally, changed my life. Crumble brought me peace in a tumultuous couple of years and is my lifelong friend and heart horse. He has been by my side through some of the toughest times I’ve had to face thus far, started me on this journey in FL the first time around, and helped me build confidence. HM took that newly developed confidence and added to it – helped me refine position, my sense of feel, and gave me the chance to prove myself.
Because of her, I’ve been given the opportunity to ride even more. Because of her, I’m back here in FL once again, having the time of my life and totally immersed in the sport I love.