Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Setting Up For Success

After the last blog about unfinished business, I have been trying to organize my day, pick tasks, make a list and see things through start to finish, if only in one small area at a time. Progress, rather than perfection, is what I seek. If I look for perfection, I become overwhelmed and the whole thing grinds to a halt before it ever really begins.

S'anyway, today was one of the gorgeous orange, red, yellow and blue Fall days. Balmy temperatures and it was my blessing to have the day off and be allowed to spend it outside with horses. I had a buyer coming to look at the Thoroughbred colt, and it was time to get dressed. Never good when buyers and clients catch me in my jammies, coffee cup in hand, and not looking my well prepared, professional self, HAH!

Dutifully I made my list. Showing Nic, riding fillies, saddling Dusty . . . wormer to be administered, new horses to be handled and further assessed. Happily the swelling on the new Quarter Pony mare's jaw is half the size it was. Hearing that she likely tangled with a newly discovered mangled round bale feeder gave me hope, as these are injuries that look like they will heal, as opposed to being caused by a secretly rotting tooth. I also needed to separate out my herds. I have been feeding two large groups and they are consuming round bales like the things are free or something. Of course, they are, to them, and their big, fat hay bellies are showing their indulgence and my skinny, weanie wallet is begging for mercy!

The admin parts were first, or they'd never be accomplished, and I saddled colts in between catching, schlepping, worming and grooming. Skipper, broodmare-soon-to-turn-saddle-horse, volunteered for her halter, like I'd handled her yesterday. I need to remember what a nice horse she is and not let her get so far on the back burner she falls off or gets traded away . . .

Finally, everyone is where they need to be. Queenie, the stocky new chestnut QP mare is in residence on the Tree of No Regret . . . that's where you stand tied til you have no worries about it. She's a little spoiled, but settled in easy, occasionally whinnying her protest and a little pawing. Can't hardly hold that against her, but stay tied, she did. The Arab cross who I have christened Phoenix, as I see him rising from the ashes of what his fate would have been, where he a 100 lbs heavier, came in the barn to be tied there. He is a bright one! Alert and really wanting friendliness, he impresses me more every time I handle him. I have a home lined up for him, and I hope he works out there. Need to get a saddle on him, but he will stay with me through the winter so no real hurries there.

It's time to ride the fillies. I rode them for their owner yesterday, in the round pen, but I know Slippin is done with that, no reason to take her backwards. Anything she needs to know, we can work on, out in the world. I have not formally introduced either filly to the wooden bridge, though they live out there, with it, those obstacles take on an entirely different set of features when the horse is asked to actually do something with them! I figure if I am going to ride her in the world, I need to do her warm ups there as well.

The cute gray filly steps out in a lively fashion as I move her around me. Her body stays nice and round, we do hip over, shoulder through and go back and forth in the falling leaf pattern, moving up and down the pasture. I work circles with her on a slope, to get her ready for riding up and down the hilly pasture, if we get that far. We do.

She's not near so shocked that I mount, outside the round pen, as she was the first time I did it. I guess it hadn't really occurred to her that would be an option for me :-). I bend her neck, ask for softness, ask her to look at me from both sides, rub her face. I move her hip over once and we spiral out at a lively walk. I love the exuberance in this filly (the voices tell me it can kill me but I am learning those voices are a hindrance I don't need and they are more dangerous to me than any horse. It's getting easier to shut them off and keep them quiet. Let the healing continue!).

We circle the outside perimeter of the round pen, her sister, Knosie, and Dusty the Paint colt, are saddled and standing inside, awaiting their turns, and it gives her a little comfort (or me) to stay close to what we know. As we come around, she picks up speed, her mind, body and feet wanting to head for the round bale where Jack, Nic and the babies are busy munching away. It's downhill which also challenges her balance and she wants to trot to catch herself. I bend her to shut her down before things can get out of control, but she comes to my hand very easily. Next time, it's just a small bend, and the time after that, no issue. Okay, enough of that, we head over to the wooden bridge. She'd taken a couple stabs at it, during her groundwork before crossing, but walks up on it now, under saddle, like she'd crossed it 1000 times. Dang, I love this filly!

We cross from both sides, and head out into the pasture. The rustling cornstalks that line her pasture, this one, the one she lives in, give her pause and concern. I get an opportunity to work her through some uneasiness but it never develops into a spook and she never tries to leave me. Gaining confidence in both of us, I point her down the long slope to the bottom side of the pasture that lines our neighbor's property. That length of slope challenges her and she isn't quite sure what to do with her feet, but listens to me, and comes back off her trot steps when I ask her to. We traverse the length and width of the pasture, ride through some trees and come up the barn side, and do some exercises in the barnyard. Not bad for her first real tour out of the round pen.

I thought about taking Knosie out as well. Don't quite have the handle on her that I do on Slippin though, and those long buckskin legs of hers are a little gangly and less coordinated. Decided to work on the handle and freeing up the feet. At least one more ride in the round pen, I thought, and then we'll head out. I did her groundwork outside, though, worked on the slope, she really stretched out into the prettiest long trot I have seen from her yet. Completely relaxed, and just reaching for it. Did the bridge, absolutely no issue for this big, calm minded girl. She is less bothered by things than her Doc Bar bred half sister, though she sure did not start out that way. Knosie's doubts get expressed in her dragging her feet, and getting sticky. Today, I didn't see much sign of that til I used the flag on her saddle, rubbing it, bouncing it a little, she slowed WAY down, head rising, eyes widening. I just kept going with her til she relaxed again. Time to ride!

Once inside the round pen, I did ground work, moving Dusty around, asking Knosie to stay with me, moving out of my way when I needed her to, coming forward, sideways, and backwards. That got a little harried, more than I can keep track of, really. Did lope Dusty around, he's not going to have a lot of problems moving his feet, but he's no scatter brain skitterer, either. Really nicely balanced young horse, in his mind and in his body. Put the boat buoys on his saddle to see if he cared about leg-like stuff bouncing around on him, he does not. Big colt did, however, attempt a couple of times to run through or maybe over the trainer, so I tied Knosie's reins up (she needs to feel her bit, anyway, I think to myself), halter Dusty, and we learn to back up (I already know, so I guess this is the editorial "we") and we learn what happens if we run through the stick. I "rode him from the ground" (Dennis Reis technique), keeping him between my halter rope in one hand and my stick in the other. He did really well for where he was at. When he would lose it and escape, I'd bring him back, put him in position and we'd go again. It didn't take many bumps on that halter rope for him to be looking to me for cues, and following my hands with a really nice lightness. He yields his hips off just the softest ask, and is really happy with his "atta boys."

Good looking bay colt is turning from "not excitable Dusty" to communicative, licking and chewing Dusty. This stuff is all so new to him . . . from Thou Shalt Not Run Over the Trainer to what the heck is this thing on my back and these straps around my tummy, that I think the whole thing took him aback a bit when we first got started. I like him expressive and I'll work him from the top of the round pen tomorrow. Should be on him, soon. Colt starting is turning into fun like it has never been before. Hmm, guess this stuff I preach does really work, in practice, LOL!

Knosie girl was feeling neglected or so I decided she was feeling, and I mounted up. She's so solid, now, I don't think a thing about swinging up on her. Again the same, bend her around, let her see me on both sides, rub her face. Move her hip over and away we go. She volunteers a trot and I take it. As hard as I have been working to get forward motion out of this girl, no way am I going to shut her down now! I encourage the trot and ask her to lengthen her stride. She feels great under me and I keep asking. I start loping, in my body, and she said "what the hey are you doing up there, Terri??" but I keep it up and eventually she picks up a few lope strides.

It was AWESOME!! She's one of those leggy things that is just going to float when she moves. I told Doats yesterday it was such a toss up for me as to which filly I would own if I had the choice, but when it comes right down to it, I think it would be this one. Man, what a horse she is going to be when she grows up!!

We do a lot of trotting, get a few lope strides going the other way and chase Dusty all over. I have Knosie track him and turn him, then use her to get out in front of him in the center of the round pen, catch his eye and have him turn in to us. I use her to move him over and send him the other way. We do this, over and over. I don't know if they are having fun, but I darned sure am. She's getting lighter and lighter off my hands and legs. I am trying to remember to weight my seatbones correctly to set the hindquarters up properly for the turn, and when I get it, I feel her respond under me. Slippin did too, in fact, she was so sensitive that I turned her several degrees more than I meant to, more than once! I am all over the place while we are moving Dusty, leaning out to pop his butt to remind him to keep moving, reaching back to pop hers now and again. Knosie just stays under me and tolerates it all. She put her ears up and moved right out . . . I am guessing she had a little fun, her own self. When I turned her loose, later on, she stayed right by me, and walked with me on her side of the fence. Girl is growing up.

Riding my horses from "back to front" is about having the power and the impulsion come from the rear as it properly should. This is the preliminary for true collection. I was amazed to watch Knosie break at the poll and level her headset while I was asking her to do hindquarters over and shoulders through from the saddle. I am excited about lessons with Missy and can't wait for the next one in November!

I played with Donovan briefly, loved on Moonshine, saddled Hawkeye but ran out of daylight before he was up to bat. I really need to get his ride up to the level I want it to be at, and let that fellow find his next new home. Getting his feet attached to the reins is my top priority with him and getting him to trust and relate to his rider will be a major part of that.

All in all, it was a wonderful day to be outside with horses. Work tomorrow, and then I get to do it all over again. The setting up for success is for me and my horses, and it starts with the baby steps. My definition of succeeding might be different than some other people's, dunno and not real concerned. I walked away from good horses that watched me go with trusting eyes, into a house to cook dinner for my best friend, that I just happen to be married to . . . It might not ever get any better than this!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Unfinished Business . . .

I am a huge believer that life is about continuing to learn, grow and progess as a human being. I also believe the Universe is generous in it's Lesson Plans. If you don't get it the first time, don't worry, the opportunity will come back around. The stakes, however, may be higher next time.

As I look around me, all I see is unfinished business. Tasks around the place, begun but not completed, with the tools and materials left where they lay. Housework . . . don't even get me started (in fact, you can't get me started.) Horse related . . . 17 head in various stages of training and readiness. Not a single one of them where I think they ought to be, and where they would be, were I consistent in my approach to them or any other thing going on in my life.

Why do I find this important enough to take up time in a blog? It's one of those things that I run into time, after time. Great ideas, blossoming rampantly in my head that somehow never see fruition, horses kept and hung on to in light of what they MIGHT be, CAN be, if I will take the time to bring them along. When something is placed in front of your face, over and over til it's the only thing you see, might, perhaps, be time to pay some attention.

I am huge on blaming my husband, after all, a certain amount of those projects out there have his name on them. If I want a tool, I need only to look where he had it last, and unbury it out of the fallen leaves. As long as I can keep blaming him, I can put off examing my own behavior and taking care of my side of the street. Excellent procratination device, and frees up a lot more time for me to be on the computer.

Horse related . . . Back to Moonshine (at last, you sigh, something about a horse!!). She is definitely a victim of started-not finished horse training. By myself and others. I have blown through her saddling issue . . . Decided the tension in her was not worthy of address, she didn't really DO anything, did she? Last night, I am pretty sure if I would have just saddled her, forced her to bridle and jumped on her, she'd have bucked my ass off. Or something. Took me most of the evening to just get a bridle on her. Last time, I thought we had dealt with the problem or at least taken a step in a positive direction with her concerns. She showed me we are not on the same page, at all. I hate it that I am mis-reading her so badly. What it really is, on my part, I want to ride her. I want to ignore that she has never been started properly and is holey as swiss cheese with mice in residence. She tolerates humans on her back and I want to fix whatever is wrong from there. I keep insisting on heading this way, and the stuff I am ignoring from the ground or giving lip service to fixing, is getting worse.

I have two hard to catch horses in my herd. Jack, the rescue horse, and Moonshine. By now, most of what I ride, would have been easy to get close to, would hunt the halter when I offer. Not her. Horses tell you what they think about working with you in the ways they react and interact with you. I sure am not happy about what this sensitive, wonderful mare is telling me. She deserves for me to give her what I know, to complete the task, and to do it from the ground up. Give her what she needs instead of me selfishly insisting upon what I want. (right, Brenda? :=))

Most of the time, when I blog, it's going to be a start to finish (at least I can do that, HERE!). This is the problem, this is what I did to fix it, this is what I learned from the process. This blog is about unfinished business. I can't tell you what the ending is because I am not there yet. All I know is that it is becoming critical that I seek organization and discipline within myself to give my horses, my husband, friends and world the better parts of what I have to offer, not to mention it would sure make it easier to get around, in the kitchen!

Good horsemanship isn't a skill or a discipline, it's a way of life. How my house, my barn, my yard, my car, my herd look on the outside, reflects what's happening on the inside. It's high time I bring what I am learning in regards to my horses all the way home. Doesn't leave much room for blaming others, losing my temper, poor living habits, and ineffective behaviors. This isn't for anyone but me and it's been a long time coming. I am guessing at least my horses and husband would be thankful for the improvement.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Filly Ridin'

"Man, I wish we could have a month or two like this, " I said to Arron, as we wrapped up the day's accomplishments. Then, I realized, we HAVE had a month like this, I haven't been able to be out in it. Snark.

We got a lot done today. Started kinda slow . . . I can tell I am going to become very jealous of my Sundays . . . the only day off Arron and I share. "No alarm clock" day for either one of us, and we took full advantage of it, til the dogs going nuts told us someone was at the door. The neighbor with hay. I complained yesterday, about the oat stuff we've been getting. The horses dig through, get the oats, and then starve to death eating the straw. As a result, I am seeing ribs and big bellies. It is time to worm, too, but that speaks more to poor quality roughage and them trying to consume more than they should to get what they need. So, he brought me alfalfa. Arm and leg prices, convenience will only buy so much, as soon as the other guy is out of the field, I'll get hay from him, but it's nice to have more than one source.

Once that was dealt with, we rolled into the day. I caught and saddled the trainers, and Arron went to work on hanging gates and fixing fence. I brought Nic in, too. I have someone coming to look at him, and I probably should manage to be on him, before they get here. Anybody wanna earn $20??

I am bored with the round pen today. My guts, my instincts, everything but that nagging voice in my head, stomache, wherever it lives, that predicts disaster at every turn, everything but that told me Slippin was more than ready to move on. Get her out, keep her interest fresh, is what the good voices said . . . what if she . . . what if she . . . shut up.

Five minutes of groundwork, she's so solid she looks better than most of the horses I ride willingly, anywhere and everywhere. Arron is working on the front pens, I say, hey I am going to ride her in here today . . . Still a pen, but a different pen, one with edges, corners and more room . . . and stuff to play with. During the five minute warm up, I showed her the squeeze I just built out of the cut logs, asked her to step up and down off the concrete foundation . . . (you better believe I am thinking "Trail Challenge" with her, but we have far to go . . .). I step up on her, astonishing her a little I think. Her ears set back a little and she's a bit grumpy as we step off. I don't think she knew I was going to make a habit of being up there, on her back, just any old where in the world . . . I don't think she had realized that, at all. Did fine.

She turns off a light touch on the reins, moves off my leg with a little heavier one. We ride the perimeter of the yard pen, sliding a little in the mud on the bottom . . . slippin' . . . She doesn't lose her cool, not in the least and we trot, going back up. That's fine, too. She's got some spunk to her, picks up her pace with just a little Doc Bar 'tude, not enough to scare me, just enough to make me like her even more than I already do which is plenty. We ride the squeeze, non issue, walk into the little box I made on the other side, stop, step over and ride through again. Toys are good. We go up the foundation, up on the smaller side, and step down on a not challenging part, too. Next time, we pick steeper:-)

Arron is grinning at us, he agrees she is riding like a proper little horse. I look longingly out into the bigger pasture behind the barn, I really want to take it out there. Arron asks for help, he's finished hanging gates and is ready to work on the tree demolished panels that have rendered the bottom pen useless now for months. Least I can do, eh. I reluctantly climb down and lend assistance.

Snapping the shovel handle while trying to pry up the buried panels . . . I suggest I might be more use, riding fillies. Gets me nowhere. Don't be a quitter, he says, and assigns me a different job . . . sigh.

Annette shows up with Sandy man, and we chat about the weekend at Turkey Creek. Part of me wishes I had been there with you all, part of me knows I did good to stay home. Learned some stuff, got to hang with my honey, who has been vastly underappreciated by me, lately. Sounds like a wonderful time was had, and good ground gained with Annette & Hank. Good horsemanship is easier done than described, and it does sound like there was some really good stuff going on with them. She's going to make a great horse out of him. I wish it would have been me that did the trick but I only got to lay some of the bricks, not build the whole foundation. All part of the journey, hers, mine, his . . .

We struggle and cuss the wire panels some more, but they get removed (geez, I hate those things) and the big panel is in place. It's short, Arron has to cut some of the panel to close off the section. I take this opportunity to flee to the barn, check on Dusty, who's learning what his saddle feels like, he's fine, and Nic . . .

Decide to ride Knosie, she's wearing her bridle for maybe the second time, started out chewing, gagging, and not at all happy at what happened when I asked her to open her mouth for me. I am going to ride her in her bit, and I spend some time teaching her what it does, rewarding the give, asking her to move out with a little energy . . . She expresses her doubts by dragging her heels but the bit is resting in her mouth and she doesn't care about it, anymore.

I grabbed up Arron and asked him to come watch me ride her. I think it was just to quiet that danged wretched voice, that just wants to chatter at me about bad stuff, all the time. It's not that he could do a thing to help me, from outside the round pen, if I push her into a wreck, but somehow, having someone else around to explain things to, as I go, distracts me from myself and frees me up to work. Goofy, I know, but that's me. I step up on the cute and quiet buckskin filly with barely a twinge. I rode her pretty hard the other night, and she just rose to it. Not much turn or handle, but no buck or spook either. I move her hip over, letting her come off the rein tension, and releasing as the left hind foot lifts to cross in back. Again. She doesn't care one bit that I am up there, is only trying to figure out this unwieldy metal thing that's got her by her tender mouth. I am respectful of that, spiral her out and ask her to walk around the pen. She wants to wander drunkenly, and I ask her to pick up her pace to get her straight and interested in what we are doing. I have to work pretty hard to make it difficult enough for her to keep walking that she finally steps into a trot. I am FINALLY getting what it means to not make my horse do something, just make it difficult for them not to. I have watched my Brannaman videos, my Ray Hunt tribute dvd's . . . over and over, and over and over. This language is in my head, but it's finally, at long last, starting to trickle down into my hands, my legs and my heart.

I ride her for probably half an hour more, most of it about forward motion, asking her to free up those long legs and move out. I have no fear of slapping the saddle with the popper, my leg, and when necessary, her shoulder or her rump. Knosie doesn't resent me, and she gets quicker with her responses as she begins to understand the things I am doing, up there on her back, have meaning, and I do the same things, each time, to help her get that. I ask for more trot and get her going pretty good. We wind up in the mud puddle a couple of times, I don't want to trot through that, there is enough slope to the pen to make it slippery on that bottom end, but after the first time, when she surprised herself and got stuck, we ride through like trail horse people.

Then, I work on hindquarter over, and bringing the front end through to help her lighten up on the bit, and get those feet attached to the reins. I lead her around in front, bumping lightly with my outside leg, as her inside front foot leaves the ground, following the feel on the inside rein. She gets better at this and I no longer have a ton of dead weight hanging on my arms as I ask her to come around. She's turning on a slack rein now, so I call it good. We work on some backing, she understands it in a halter, backs willingly off one rein, but the bit has her confused. We work through that, I ask for one front foot at a time, not releasing til I get the foot I want, but rewarding the try, each time, as soon as her weight shifts the way I want her to go. She sure has a different look and feel about her than she did when we got started . . . thinking the neighbors must have wondered what the heck, as a couple of our "I won't lead and you can't make me" tussles took us down by their fence and all over the back pasture. We are WAYYY past that, now :=)

Arron agrees she's come a long way. "Took you long enough, though" he says. I sniff, thinking ribs, but he is thinking procrastination, and he is more right than I am. Days like this, I love working with the colts and they are coming closer together now. I am starting to get excited thinking about Sasha and Two Socks' first ride, rather than thinking of it with the dark dread that usually clouds me. I have always liked the part when they ride well enough to really start teaching them stuff, but what I am learning now, tells me I start teaching them stuff from the beginning and things are going much better this way. This horsemanship journey is quite a deal, and as personal and as intense as any other I have ever been on . . .

It was groundwork for Dusty. This is a big, heavy boned Tobiano Paint colt, bay with a little white on him. He is a left brained sort, to borrow a Parelli term, and extremely internal. We have a friend we refer to as "not-excitable Jeff". His reaction to a deeply kick ass tattoo that he and Arron designed together, was a small nod, a glint in his eye and a slightly upturned corner of his mouth. "That rocks." he says . . . Well, this is Dusty, and if I am not careful, again, I will blow past his reactions because I won't wait to see them. I did the hip over, front end through and decided to work on the stirrup slap. He is so quiet, I want to just climb on and go, but I have already skipped one step with him (which is why he just got to wear his saddle most of this day, and figure out those cinches) and I am not going to skip the others. I get vigorous with the slapping and he does react with a widened eye and raised head. "Do I need to be worried about this?" He asks. No, Dusty, you don't, you're fine, just that this saddle is going to make noise from time to time, and pretty soon, there are going to be legs there, bumping you and asking you for things. "Hmmm." He says.

I stop and wait. I count to 30, waiting for his lick and chew (don't get many, at all, from this horse, yet). At 30, he finally blinks, sighs, lowers his head and I know it's coming so I keep waiting. A good fifteen seconds later, it happens. He licks, chews, regards me a little, what's next? Well, now we do the other side. No L&C from that side, and I wait for what seems forever, he gets bored. Okay, here we go, more hips around, ask him to move out at a good swinging walk, and now he licks and chews. Okay, fine, whatever, it's his lesson, not mine, anyway . . .

Line him up at the saddle rack to pull the rig, he stays put and stands solid. I think this colt has every potential in the world to be one of those great 100% good geldings that we all want to own. It's in his nature, just up to me to properly steward the education.

When I brought Slippin in to untack, I took her halter off before her bridle, doing it the cowboy way. She was a little offended with my clumsy fingers in her mouth but we got it figured out :-) If I win the lottery before Doats sells her, I am going to own her. At any rate, I am going to help them get a right kind of price for her, she's one neat little girl.

And that was the day, riding fillies.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Trading Doubt . . .

for trust. That was the focus of the afternoon. I had my training string caught, lined up and ready to saddle. I decided that today's original ambitious schedule was going to downsize, and I'd ride one personal horse, Moonshine, and work one for sale horse, Nic. I don't have a lot of doubt going on with the training colts, it's my own that need work here.

However . . . Nic and Moonshine are different stories. Nic is young and has seen a lot for his tender years. He is flinchy and tends to kick out at sudden movements. The darned stock dogs aren't helping that a bit, running in and nipping at tails, heels, ankles and hocks whenever I am not looking or too far away to bring thoughts of deterrment. Moonshine . . . she had doubts when I sent her out last summer, and she brought them right on home with her again. I really like my cowboy camp, but I think I have to not send out anymore. I bitch, whine and complain that the horses do not ride like they would if I kept them home and rode them, myself, and therefore, ergo, and all that, keeping them home and riding them is what I must do.

Back to trading doubt.

The cowboys are missing some pieces to the puzzle I want to build, but they are fearless and have that old school work ethic that is missing all over the place, including in me. Just this afternoon, I sat here at the computer instead of heading out to barn to catch colt, chest heavy weighted and came up with all kinds of reasons not to get outside and do my job. Come right down to it, I didn't get a ton accomplished. I have struggled, progressed and struggled some more with that fear that lives in the hearts of so many good horse people. Getting kicked a few weeks ago didn't help any, though that wasn't a riding accident, it was still a wreck of judgment, and I feel the pain of it, right this minute.

So, what does it take to get the feet moving, when the will is dead? Moonshine, the 16.2 hand Percheron/Arab cross, was of the most interest to me today, so I decided to start with her. I am auditing a dressage clinic next week, and am on the cancellation list. If someone falls out, Friday afternoon, I'll be taking her . . .

Most of my horses volunteer for the halter, want to be caught, and don't mind the jobs I ask them to do. That is, if I have done my work correctly the day before, if not, they tell me with their heels. She starts there. Hard to catch and high headed, that pretty black mare is much happier in the company of other equines than any human. I want to change that, and I know it can be done.

I let her follow Maxie, her Morgan buddy, into the barn and played the catching game in there, not really feeling up to tailing her around the seven acres she has access to, right outside. I rewarded her eye with release of pressure, walked up soft, stroked her tense neck and waited for her to lower her head. She's been mugged to be caught and it's left it's effect.

Grooming, saddling, I pay attention to the worry in her eyes, even though her feet stay still. I am guessing a casual observer might miss her concern. She stands like a rock for the saddle, a frozen rock . . . I moved her around a little and asked her to acknowledge what I was doing. Cinched slowly, as always. Untied her to bridle. If she had any saddling issues, I'd have untied her for that. Moonshine backed away from me, trying to point her nose up and away. I just walked with her, quietly, and waited for her to come down, halter looped loosely around her neck. I could just see her bolting through the barn door, scraping my good Crates saddle on the way out, and then the merry chase while I seek to recover it, and her, all in one piece. When her feet stopped moving, I stroked and petted her cheek, and face, worked the bridge of her nose, getting her to soften and lower her head. Then, I framed her face with the bridle, tucking the bit up under her chin. Worries there, too. I stoked and rubbed under her jaw, taking the fear away. She accepts the bit easily, still giving me the skeptical eye.

We did some groundwork out in the roundpen, using the plastic bag on the stick. This mare has had a lot of things done TO her, not so many done WITH her. I let her make the decision when she was ready to disengage her hip, and roll around to face me. Worked the same way from the top of the round pen, and some squeeze, but what I really wanted to do was ride. I had it in my head, we could work both of us. I wanted to work on posting, and two pointing, and figured she could just work on maintaining her trot, while I did my own thing, up there.

Didn't really get her as soft and relaxed as I wanted her to be, did some preflight steps which she passed, okay, and went to climb aboard. Halfway up, she's in motion. I have her head bent, so at least I knew what direction she'd be going in. Wasn't all that fast, but a stiff, hurried walk in a tight circle. I figured, I'd wait til she stopped, and continue mounting. She didn't stop. I kept thinking . . . three days, it rarely takes more than three days. I really wanted it to be her decision. Ribs started to hurt from leaning over the saddle, and I said, well, not this time, and helped her get stopped. Stepped down, did some more work. Now, at ANY time, I could have grabbed her up, swung up while she walks off and got on with the riding. It's how she's been mounted, I am guessing every time anyone has ever ridden her, including me. I wasn't going to do it. Did more hip yields, got her softer, more flexion, I look up, a little less worry and her head is not touching the sky now . . . Halfway up, more circles. This time, she does stop, and I get down. Next time, I am in the saddle before she steps off and I gather her up and we stand and breathe.

Tight, hard breaths, puffing harshly into the afternoon chill, tell me the worry isn't completely gone, or even really started to be. We are walking, with energy, or at least that's what I am trying for, and 'Shine is staying under me, but not always between my hands and legs. She's a lot of work to ride, heavy on the bit, and I know she knows what feel is but she doesn't know that I do, and isn't very willing to try and give me a chance to show her. I keep opening up opportunities to turn her, catching her big ole foot in the air and directing it before it comes down, releasing with all my might, any time she accidentally gives and softens. All of a sudden, I notice, even if she's still kinda concerned, my fear is gone, again. Wish it would stay away, but it never does. I am busy working with her, trusting that she isn't going to buck (never has) or bolt (in the round pen, where can she go?) and I offer her a loose rein, bring the life up in my body (hard to do when you are tired and unenthused, which for whatever reason I am, today) and she trots off. I didn't get a whole lot of posting worked out, I can sit her trot easily, am horribly out of shape and found myself taking the comfortable way out.

I did get some pretty decent 1/4 and 1/2 turns on the haunches and forehand. She never became super soft, but I found out that if I adjusted my ask to a really soft request, I had a much greater chance than if I fixed it up with a harder hold. Then she really braces, and why shouldn't she . . . seems a no brainer now, but it took me some bearing the weight of that head and neck in my arms to figure it out!

Okay, here's the cool part. Lining her up at the saddle rack to pull my gear, she went right where I asked and stayed where I put her, but with life and interest in those big dark eyes. She wasn't a shut down statue. I grabbed a soft brush, and went over that velvety black coat, her head level to me and tuned in to what I was doing. Pulling her halter outside, she stayed with me for some pets before I turned, left her there, and went back in the barn.

I sure hope not all the doubts that got traded today for trust, were mine.