Since my last post Grace has improved beyond words. What do I say about this girl, other than she is fabulous and I love her to bits! Yes we still have issues with things going over the top of her head and she really does not like her ears being touched, but! We are now riding her and she is proving to be an incredibly sensible and useful horse. I had been playing around with the bareback pad for a long while, which she seemed to be comfortable with. I'd turned her loose in the arena with it and she moved with ease, in all gaits. I then put the english saddle on her and although she was a little cautious of this, she managed to move out again after a while with ease, Other than her canter strides becoming more and more huge, she managed not to get scared and buck, and i think this was a massive turning point in how she thinks! - She didn't feel the need to defend her self- and once she figured this out, she began to trust. Interestingly at this point her whole demeanour changed, her physical body changed from tense and running away to stretching and relaxing with bigger more purposeful steps, mentally she was more open, checking in with me often, she licked and chewed regularly, and her ears were constantly listening. This had a an interesting effect on her, It felt good to her and she began to seek this more comfortable way of going more and more. Her body felt good, so her mind relaxed, as her mind relaxed, her body relaxed even more and the whole cycle started over again and again. She found balance - physical, mental and emotional balance!
After the english saddle, came the western saddle, now this is a heavy saddle, which has things hanging off it, and it makes more noise, she got a little cautious and the worry set in again, she lifted her head, her ears turned backwards and there was a look of fear in her eyes however, she did one thing different! Instead of blowing up, She stretched her neck forward and down, and it felt good!- the fear was immediately diffused and she began to stride around the arena confidently.
We spent a few days playing around with the saddles, and I often ponied her out from Pepper, while she was wearing the saddle, however the day came when it was time to get on, She was ready, She allowed me to lie over her back, kneel on her, slide myself over the top and dismount from her right side. All seemed well! so we'll go for a sit on!
It was quite a surreal experience to be finally sat on her, when I think back to her arrival and how skeletal she was and just 5 months later I was finally up there! Grace turned her head, looked at me, blew out a relaxing snort and just wandered off, no worry or fear. It was as though she said ' Ok, let's go do this!" I didn't ask much of her at all other than to take me for a wander while i sat there being a passenger. We went left and right, stopped, wandered off again, backed up, moved the hind end, and that was that, end of the ride - she did all i asked, and so i left it there.
Over the years I have been doing horsemanship I have heard time and time again from my mentors that the last thing a horse wants to do is buck - I never understood this at the time, especially when I was bucking my way around the arena on various other horses - at that time, to me bucking was the first thing they wanted to do, because it was what was happening at the time! But Grace is a wonderful teacher, she shows you so many smaller signs as to whether she's ready or not, whether she's comfortable or not even down to where her ear is pointing or how she's breathing, all these things happen long before she gets to the bucking. She's teaching me to look for smaller and smaller signs, and she's very clear when I get it wrong - or right! If I get it right, then there's no need to buck.
Things took another turn for the better a few days later, when Mark rode her while I ponied her from Pepper, She was just fine, and so the following day they rode solo, along side me.
The thing I love about this horse is that she arrived with us, skinny, afraid and defensive, however in a relatively short space of time, with quiet consistency, repetition and patience she haas embraced her new life, and is turning in to a confident young horse who is not looking back! Life is good now and I am so looking forward to spending our first summer together.