1. Cowgirl started kicking and pawing in the trailer when we loaded her. She was throwing such a fit, I didn't want to add Leah to the mix. Instead, I loaded Shiloh and Cowgirl to the barn (early) and then returned to get Leah. Rebecca met us at the trailer and took Shiloh off to work with Cowgirl. (The return trip, after the clinic, was quiet and peaceful.)
2. Groundwork. Rebecca had us do the usual leading our horses around the arena, staying in the inside, horses to the outside. But at one point she talked about how we need them to follow even if they're not caught. She asked us to see what would happen if we let go and threw the lead ropes over our horse's backs. Instead of horses running around everywhere, it appears, they all followed their people. I can only really speak for Leah. I did circles with her and stops--and she was almost perfect at leading at liberty. She made one mistake in a scary corner---speeding up--but I grabbed her rope lightly and she got right back on track following.
3. Saddle up! Cowgirl is cinchy. Rebecca came over to Shiloh and helped her find ways to get Cowgirl cinched up without causing her to blow. I'm not exactly sure what they did. I think they broke it down into small stages and worked on getting her comfortable and breathing. A couple of the ladies also had Smart Cinches--they have rollers for the latigo and the mohair/blend is a little stretchy. I went out and purchased one.
4. Tacking up by mules. Leah had never seen a mule before. She was very curious about them and their crazy sounds!
5. Let her ride! I thought we'd go back to the arena to ride, but instead we rode in an open field with all the distractions you'd get with that: cows, a loose horse, varying terrain and, in our case because we live two spots down, the distraction of our own herd calling for their alpha mare!
The loose horse wasn't planned. It was missing its buddy and broke its rope as we rode around the trailers. And, of course, the loose horse came straight to us! Rebecca had said earlier, speaking about the things you can encounter on the trail, a loose horse always comes to the one who least wants them. It appears she was right.
I didn't trust Leah one little bit before that outside ride, but she proved me wrong. I really thought she'd bolt and try to jump the fence and run back to our home pasture, but she didn't do anything like that. The worst thing she did was pull off to the left (per usual), but I put my left leg on her and kicked her back to the circle. She did it about four times total. Once, when she did it, she got into another horse's space and that horse ran backwards and kicked her!!
It probably sounds chaotic, but it was actually pretty controlled. The horses were getting used to each other--as we all were--and we were learning to trust each other. I was finding out what Leah would do in various situations and none of it was anything I couldn't handle. If at any point we didn't feel comfortable doing what was asked, we didn't have to. And, if we needed it, Rebecca would ride our horse for us to demonstrate.
In all, we spent about 5 hours in saddle, but a lot of it was watching the other participants work their horses in the round pen. (We all had a turn in it, but when it wasn't our turn, we sat on our horses and watched.)
Rebecca is also making herself available every Wednesday evening for a group ride at the barn. I plan to go over there tonight and practice. After the clinic Saturday, I was on what I call a "clinic-high." That feeling you get when you've fallen in love with your horse and can't stop thinking about them and looking forward to your next ride. The high has worn off, so I need to get a refresher!
Here are a few more pictures from the clinic.
Cowgirl & Shiloh (You can see our barn in the background.)
Rebecca giving a demo on Leah.
Shiloh and Cowgirl in the round pen.