"Val - I know I've let you down a few times... for instance the hurtful hay full of foxtail barley. Remember how I lost my cool when you flipped out on the lunge tearing the line out of my hand? And who could forget how I loaded you on the wrong side of the trailer when I came to pick you up from your previous owners... can you say Mr. Toad's Wild Ride?!"
"Okay, I'll make you a deal. I promise you can trust me. I promise - I'll take care of you - and you promise you'll take care of me. Kay? Love ya!"
So yesterday, I fell off. Sort of. In the best possible way.
When I got to the barn, my neighbor was weed eating, hedge trimming and chain sawing. In the woods right next to my arena. I decided it was high time for Val to get over being scared. I drove all the way to the barn, and I wanted to ride today.
After grooming and tacking up, I took a high-headed lookylou Val over to the mounting block. The weed eater got closer and closer. In the breaks between the whining engine noise, there was crashing around in the woods that you could hear but not see. It took a few minutes, but Val eventually calmed down. I reassured him, and sang him silly songs. (Kacy at All Horse Stuff calls this trail opera - I'd say arena opera.)
We proceeded to have another great ride. We worked on forwardness - keeping my leg on... contact - consistency... half halts - timing... balance - riding both sides of my horse... transitions - getting immediate response to my aides and riding into our corners. Nothing new there. And there probably won't be anything new for a while. It's going to take time for Val and I to incorporate all of these elements into our rides. Especially working almost exclusively on our own as we are. Will keep you posted on progress - hope we're not tedious, tiresome or monotonous in our quest to achieve correct, elegant, cooperative movement.
As we rounded the corner closest to all of the commotion, I was concentrating on not leaning in on my turn, and Val was concentrating on freaking out. He shied pretty violently to the inside. I was unseated, but not enough to come off. I had the presence of mind to grab my saddle rather than Val's mouth. He had the presence of mind to stop freaking out. As I got back over my horse, the girth slipped and I sort of rode the stirrup down to the ground - it felt much like an escalator. I fixed the saddle, mounted back up, and we continued the ride. I was so proud of him. A few months ago both of us would have been too unsettled from the noise and distractions to even consider riding, much less recovering from an incident. I believe that his trust in me is growing every ride. And I look forward to each new ride, where at one point I dreaded them. I'm so grateful.
After grooming and carrot stretches, I thought "why not do a little trailer loading practice?". It seems to go smoothly when we're on the same page after a good ride. This time was no exception. He followed me into the trailer twice with no delay. So I thought "what a good time to push the envelope!" and baited up the trailer by leaving a gingersnap on the chest bar. Val self loaded three times in a row. Walked right in with the lead rope laying over his back. Yet another multitasking fail prevents me from sharing my joy in video format. Maybe next time :)