Today was one of the most interesting days I think my horse and I have had together...ever.The last several weeks since I had my instructor out have been fun. I've played online, I've ridden 5 times and had some great undemanding time with my horse. She's meeting me at the gate and when we finish our sessions she is staying with me.
Every few weeks my instructor is out to see our progress. I just love these days because they always remind me that I can always aim higher and find ways to get my savvy to a whole new level. Get my good better. I'm not sure if I have any "better" that I'm working towards "best" with just yet.
I think since I've not yet completed the entire Levels program that I am not always sure what I should be doing, when I should be doing it, and for how long I should do it for. Some days it's tough! I get to the barn with one idea, see the horse that I have and everything might change based on what side of the stall she woke up on. Some days my own baggage weighs me down.
TODAY however, my horse met me at the gate, we saddled pleasantly and I drove her in zone 3 to the arena to get started and to meet my instructor. The last time she saw my horse, Amara was flying around on the line unable to stand still and accept the friendly game. I was so excited to show her how much we had progressed with this! So much so that we quickly moved through it and were on to the next thing. I couldn't believe how sluggish my normally forward horse was today. Once we popped the cork off the sluggish bottle....wow did she ever come out to play!
I saw expressions on my horse's face that I know I've never seen before. Bright and alert to her surroundings (but not panicky or adrenalin-ized), I saw exuberance, I saw her apply herself, and asked questions coming by the mouthful! I also saw her lick so much I thought her lips would fall off!
What was so wonderful about this was to see how my horse literally woke up (in a good way) to the handling my instructor was demonstrating for me. Thanks to today, I have a very solid picture of the different faces my horse is making when trying to tell me she's either "okay", "not okay", "panicking", "content" and/or "accepting" of what we are doing.
Today I learned how to really make it game out of it all. I am astounded to see myself write this (did i somehow miss this was my job? I thought I had been doing this all along) but one thing that my instructor wanted me to hear loud and clear is to set things up so that she is asking questions about what I want. I had gotten her to be obedient but she wasn't really asking me if she was right or not. She was just following my instructions. It was sooo cool to see Amara asking so many questions. Questions I can simply reply "yes" or "no" to when I am teaching. Wow...how easy is that?!
Today we sent her to a target on the ground and she learned to put her feet on it. I've done this with other horses but I hadn't been able to really do this with her. To get her curious to want to touch things with her nose and her feet. Usually she avoids things and even when we drive to something she'll stand there and look at it without asking me questions. Today we put a chair cushion on the ground and through the course of a conversation she learned to put both feet on it and stand. Sounds simple enough, but when you have a horse who tends to be flighty getting them to stop flying around and think about what they're doing can be a challenge.
Turns out she needs a lot of physical release before she is mentally/emotionally ready to ride. My sessions might look like 1-2 hours of prep for 15 minutes of ride time right now. WOW.
I think my favorite part of the day is that we found 2 itchy spots on her!! This is the first time I've been able to scratch my horse the way she likes to be scratched and see her lips quiver and have her stretch toward me for more. I may have gained some ground with friendly today too. Perhaps it's just because I've been working so hard on getting a bond with her that it means so much to know I can scratch her and have her like it.
I wonder if she'll come and greet me tomorrow? :)