Thursday, February 19, 2009

Maia's work continued, her work on the lunge was nearly perfect, she knew all the voice commands and understood the sliding side reins. The fourth time we rode was the best yet, and the first without a sidewalker. Jaimie rode Ben and Carly rode Gracie, and Maia would pick and choose which buddy she wanted to follow around. For the most part she was left on a loose rein, allowed to wander where she wanted to go, I was simply a passenger. Occasionally I would pick up the contact and we even did a few stints in the trot on a contact, which felt amazing. Her whoa/go commands were better and I had more steering as well. It was as if she had been thinking about it in her stall at night. We trotted down the long side and I did not constrain her, to encourage that wonderful movement she had. Moving freely with her, she broke into a canter, and I reacted as I would on any other horse. I sat down and moved with her, and it was beautiful. Everyone in the ring stopped to watch and all were nearly speechless afterwards. It was one of the smoothest canters I have ever ridden. Maia is growing up, she appears taller and more muscular every day, and she is now getting 2 cups of Purina Competition each morning to help. The bond between us has now grown to a different level, and the fact that she enjoys the ridden "work" so much is a huge encouragement for me, and at our next chance, we will ride again, then hopefully make it out on the property trails after 5 or so more sessions.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Over the next couple weeks, I rode Maia two more times, and Diane spent a session with me, introducing lunging while a rider is on board. I had only trotted a few steps up until then, but this time was different. We allowed her to trot off whenever she felt like it, which was often. Forward movement was our primary goal. Whatever speed, whatever direction, just forward. Her balance hadn’t yet been established whatsoever, and without a sidewalker she had nothing to stabilize her movement. She took the contact well, with no resistance or head flipping, but I kept a light feel to keep from making her feel pressured. It was not the best lunge she’d ever had, but it was the best I’d ever had. I was euphoric.
After that it was time for a break. I worked her very lightly, just in a bridle, and then she had a real vacation for about a week, while I focused all my energy on Alice, the chestnut mare I trained in dressage. We kept to grooming on the days I could fit it in, and she even got her first ever bath, which went quite well, considering some horses I’ve seen near a hose. I began working Alice in the mornings, so I had most of my afternoons open for Maia, and we were able to get back on schedule. She was feisty, of course, but she fell back into step quickly, and the second day back I lunged with the saddle and sliding side reins, and it went very well. At my next opportunity, we would ride again.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Though January 17th started as any other day, I would never have guessed that it would turn into the best day of my life. In the evening, I had every intention of just lunging Maia in a saddle, as I was getting her used to wearing it. I don’t know what it was that made it so clear, but I knew that tonight was the night, and not every horse is the same, and has to wait until they are exactly 3. She is now 2 years and 9 months old, and two nights ago, I rode her for the very first time.
We finished up lunging, and Jaimie put Ben away to help me. I walked to up next to the mounting block and put my feet in the stirrups and put weight in them. I banged on the saddle, I jostled it, I leaned over her back. She didn’t take a single step the entire time. She was just waiting patiently. Jaimie returned with my helmet, and began leading Maia around and pushing in the stirrups herself. I stood on the block while she led her up next to me, and I slowly put my foot in the stirrup once more, I let her first feel my whole weight, then I lifted my other leg and swung it over. And there I was.
Maia stood, and a second later, began to lick her lips and chomp on the bit. The praise was like she had never heard before, but she couldn’t understand why. To her, this was no biggie. It was as if I was the beginner, and she had been doing this for years. Jaimie led us around in a circle, letting her go out as if she were lunging, just a little in the walk. I couldn’t contain my happiness, and silent tears snuck down my face. We halted and then walked on a few times, and were even brave enough to try the trot, only for a few steps. It was so big, so monumental, everything we had been working towards for the last two months, day in and day out. I didn’t want to spoil anything, so as much as I never wanted to, I slipped off of her and walked her around the arena a few times, praising her constantly. I put her up in a daze, and it lasted me until the next day, until I couldn’t resist tacking her up a second time, this time with Diane there.
Again I lunged her normally, and Diane came in before I got on, to see for her self. Once more, Jaimie led her around the block and I mounted, and the bliss returned in full swing. We walked around, practicing halting and then moving forward to the pressure of my leg, something we hadn’t introduced the night before. I took the contact, and she reached for it, down into it, and she felt my hands on her mouth and embraced them without question or fear. The line was let out a little so we had a little more independence, and I began to take her from left to right, and then straight. By the end of the ten minute ride, she understood that my leg meant go, and my hands and deeper seat meant stop. It was an experience I will never forget, and to share it with her means so much to me, it is the one thing I cannot even try to put into words.