When December began, it was time for more. Not just because she was now completely settled in and we had developed trust and mutual understanding, but also because the trails were now covered in a foot of snow, and thus we had no more walks. The day came when Maia would finally see the room where she would spend a good part of the next year or so of her life, the indoor arena. The sliding door was heavy, and some days it took some real muscle to get it open, but what it revealed was worth it. The same pine wood that flocked the walls in the grooming area and in the stables went along three of the walls of the ring, the fourth, the far short side, was one large mirror. The wood went up about 10 feet, and then the walls were white up to the ceiling. Speakers connected to a sound system in the viewing area were perched in the rafters, and there were sliding windows all along the tops of the walls. My favorite part though, was the flags of the U.S, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, and Russia that hung at the tops of the walls. Once you were done looking up and around, and were walking into the arena itself, your footsteps fell on nicely maintained footing, made up of wood chips, sand, plain dirt, and small pieces of rubber that gave the floor a nice springy feeling.
Maia took it all in the best she could as I led her around the edges, up to the mirror, and then back towards the viewing area so she could look through the windows. I had learned over the last couple months that she was not the type to spook. In fact, I can’t think of any one thing that she has shown a serious fear of. Instead, it was always replaced by curiosity. When she saw herself in the mirror for the first time, she did not shy away as most horses do. Instead, she moved closer, and put her nose right up to the surface, staring intently at her own reflection. To this day it is still her favorite thing to look at while we’re in the ring.
Each day, we went into the arena and walked around, once in a while I would introduce lunging just by swinging the lead rope and getting her to walk a circle around me, but mostly we just spent the time enjoying the time alone, just like our walks. I began taking her down to the round pen on the nicer days, setting her loose and chasing her around with the whip, using my voice as much as possible to teach her the lunging commands. After a few sessions like this, introducing the rope wasn’t so hard. There were a few really good days, where everything went smooth and as planned, and Maia seemed to be on the same page that I was. Then of course, there were the bad days. Maia would go every direction but the one I wished her to be going, she would not go at all, or she would rip around the pen at breakneck speed, which didn’t accomplish anything. Working through those days with her was difficult but necessary, as squashing that behavior early on would save a ton of work later, when she was taller and much, much stronger. Up to this point, all the work I did with her was in the halter, which I preferred so that she would be comfortable and not feel restricted during our sessions. There is only so much you can do in a halter, however, and so, it was time to begin introducing tack.