First and foremost, I'm going to pre-apologize for the blatent bragging in this post. You can go ahead and close your browser right now, if you'd like, because this particular writing is going to be a pure, unabashed, one-sided discussion of how much I truly love this horse.
You've been warned.
Monday night I knew I needed to get a ride in. Although it would be nice to wait for the cooler weather, on Tuesday we were supposed to (and did indeed) get a LOT of rain, so I figured it was going to be too muddy to ride.
After work on Monday, and after working with Moose a bit, I saddled Paula up. Actually, before I saddled her up, I swung the saddle up onto the railing by where she was tied up. I lifted the saddle up but forgot to remove my thumb before dropping it onto the railing. Then I said things that would make a sailor blush.
So, I wasn't quite sure how things were going to go. I'm not superstitious, but when you're out riding a green horse all by yourself, with no where to keep your blackberry so you just leave it in the house for fear that it will get crushed or mangled by your equine critters, and with not much time in the saddle in recent years, you tend to spook fairly easily. Should I ride? Is this a bad omen? Am I being cautious, or am I just a big chicken?
Wait, don't answer that.
I decided that my resolve to get Paula broke was stronger than any superstitious nonsense I could talk myself into, so we headed out to the roundpen and got to work.
I asked Paula to start lunging. She had the bit on for the second time in her life, and today she knew just how to hold it in her mouth. She was comfortable and listening for my cues. I never once had to lift the lunge whip to cue her. I asked her to walk, then clicked and asked her to trot and she transitioned right into a lovely, smooth, collected trot immediately. After a few times around I kissed to her and she picked up the correct lead, maintaining her collected, calm gait, head level and still listening. Then we worked on more transitions--from lope to trot, trot to walk, walk to lope, lope to walk, etc. She never missed a beat. Both directions, she was absolutely on the mark every time. I decided to press my luck and when I asked her to whoa the final time, I then asked her to back (she was still on the rail, and I was in the middle of the roundpen). She backed.
I freely admit it has taken me forever to break her out, mostly because I'll take time off, for months at a time, and do nothing with her, but I also take my time making sure she knows what I'm asking for. Monday night I estatically reaped the fruits of our sporadic labor.
I went ahead and lightly bitted her (tied the reins downward to maintain a slight flex at the poll) and asked her to walk around and feel the pressure from the bit if she lifted her head. Then I asked her to flex and bend with the reins attached to the bit, and she began to quickly realize that I was asking her the same things I did from the halter. Her transition from the halter to the bit has been seamless, and she's responding with the same lightness as she does when riding her with the halter: my ultimate goal.
Speaking of lightness, I also rode Paula, still in the halter, but I did leave the bit on her to further facilitate our transition. I just hooked the reins to the halter instead. We continue to progress so nicely--she "listens" to my leg cues very well. We worked on our serpentines and pivots. She continues to back on cue (no reins).
What I was really impressed with, though, is that we haven't been trotting for very long, but I decided last night I would try a few collection exercises while we were trotting. I asked her to flex at the poll and lift her back while maintaining her gait and not only did she respond immediately, but she kept her position even after I released. I kept thinking to myself that I wish this were June instead of late August, because she's going to be ready for walk-trot classes very soon! She was just amazing. She listens to me at all levels--aurally as well as all our physical points of communication: through the reins to my hands, my legs, my shifts in body weight. You can almost see the wheels turning in her mind, asking herself when I cue her "what does this mean?" and then processing the results into a lovely, controlled action. And she is correct 99% of the time.
I am just so incredibly proud of this horse that I bred, raised, and now have the great honor of training. My fear of not being a good enough trainer to adequately utilize her talent is overridden by the excitement I feel for our future together. I really feel like we bond so well. Every lesson is a great experience for us both. Each time we get just a little closer to my goal of showing, and after every lesson she achieves her goal of getting a thorough rub-down with the curry and a bucket full of oats :)
If you happen to read this far, thanks for listening to me brag on my girl. I just couldn't hold it inside any longer. I blame it on my black and blue thumb....