As you all know, I've been working on some of the ideas from, True Horsemanship Through Feel, with our horses. Today was my first lesson since our trip to Hawaii, so I was really excited to see if it would make a difference.
When I hooked up and pulled around the horse trailer, I went to get Leah in the pasture. (In my mind, I had been debating getting her first, then pulling around the trailer, but opted to let her know what was happening instead.) Even though she knew I was coming to take her away, she stood for me and bent around to greet me. (Big improvement on the Indirect Feel).
Before loading her, I worked with her on the ground, lowering her head, moving her feet, all with a "float" in the line. I stood outside the trailer and asked her to walk in on her own. She did. And, trailering went great.
At the lesson barn, the beautiful weather had brought everyone out. Lots of horses and people and the cutest little five year old with the best-behaved pony I've ever seen.
We worked in the big outside arena with the other riders (and little girl with amazing pony) and adjacent cattle pen. Leah was definitely wanting to look around, but I just asked her to pay attention, and she did.
It was the best day I've ever had with her. I finally experienced the beginnings of real togetherness. My instructor was thrilled, too. Leah was like a different horse, less reactive and moving out with balance and thought. The saddle barely slipped to the side, whereas, it used to constantly roll. When I applied leg pressure, she didn't bolt forward like it was her cue for the Kentucky Derby. She got it!
I talked with my instructor about what I'd seen--Leah bracing in the pasture when I'd walk up--and how I took a few steps back to improve on that rather than thinking I always had to ride. She thought that was a good decision. Leah hadn't lost any of her training, but the foundation of being together with me--a willing partner--was a dramatic difference.
The cute little girl on the amazing pony, who had been watching us, rode over in my area (her mother was giving a lesson on the other side of the arena) and said,"You have a really pretty horse. Is she all trained?" I told her thank you, and she is still in the process of being trained, but almost there. She said again, "She is really pretty!" >>melt heart<<. The fact is, though, Leah looked prettier today because of her attitude. Even my trainer said, "I kind of love this horse!"
My trainer and I talked about lowering the head, and she said she does that with all her horses. Hers can touch their lips to the ground, and they even lower their heads on a verbal cue. She also bends them around to the side and lowers the head, though not as low as in front.
So, I'm riding the high of the feeling you get with togetherness. It was a validation to me that I hadn't been "wasting" my time by doing the fundamentals. When we got home, I took Leah for a little walk around our property before putting her in with the others. She was so sweet. Her head was low as I petted her, and she was enjoying the relationship, something I hadn't really had with her and that I was wondering if I'd ever get. She was in no hurry to be put back, and I was in no hurry to let her go.