There are plenty of other updates that won't get mentioned, because honestly, nothing was so profound that I remember except this one ride.
Ransom's had a few dressage rides that hit the spot. He's also had a few crummy rides, fighting me on trot-to-canter transitions. But overall, we haven't done much in the way of magic last week.
Harley had one or two days last week on the lunge line, on one occasion I introduced him to a training tool called an "elbow pull", which I saw on Julie Goodnight's TV show. I tested it out on Ransom and Romeo first, to see if the muscled-up horse could learn it (Ransom = check), and if the older quiet horse could learn it (Romeo = check). When I put it on Harley, he fought it, but when he realized the release only came when he relaxed his head, he held it as long as his muscles would allow. None of these lunging sessions or "work sessions" lasted over 15 minutes, keeping everything slow, low-key, and relaxed.
Sunday, after a decent Ransom dressage ride (stickie into the canter, stringing out, and almost refusing to transition pretty), I grabbed Harley. Saddled him western for the first time, wrapped legs, put on his bit, and walked him to his pasture.
I put on my helmet.
I prayed, "God don't let me get too hurt if this is a bad idea."
And I got on. Mounted up, wiggled a little in the tack, and watched Harley's ears flicker as the saddle squeaked.
Mrs.Mom and I discussed at some great lengths about Harley and mine bareback adventures, and how he absolutely refused to walk forward. Mrs. M suggested I wriggle, wiggle, dance my little body all about, squeeze in pulses with my calves, and talk to him. Tell him, "Walk on, Harley. Walk on." In his lunging before this week, I hadn't been saying much to him, except the occasional cluck or kiss, and his verbal "whoa" cue. I wasn't telling him what gait I wanted, but releasing the cluck or physical pressure when he got it right.
So I tried it out. I clucked to him, told him, "Walk on." He didn't budge. I squeezed my calves, wiggled my legs, danced my toosh around in the tack, and told him again, "Harley, walk on", in a stronger voice.
And off he went. Harley moseyed a little at that wimpy walk I'd gotten bareback. So I ramped up the physical pressure, wiggling my legs and toosh. He picked it up!
Afraid I'd impede his forward motion, I didn't ask for a halt for quite a while, maybe five straight minutes of walking only. *laugh* Well, kind of walk only. When Harley would begin to ease up his gait, I'd start squeezing and wiggling. Twice he tried to break to trot, and got a stride or two out before I'd give him a heavy sigh and he'd come back to walk.
Then finally, I got brave. I asked for a halt. Sat back, heavy sigh, verbal, "Whoa." He stopped easily, but then backed up a step or three before settling. I pushed him up to a walk again, then halted again. Each "walk on" became easier and easier, with less dancing toosh from me. Great!
Feeling brave, or stupid, or fearless, I can't guess which, in the walk, I squeezed, and clucked. Harley's head popped up a little, and he settled into a trot. Now, let me try to describe the trot (without video, which I will explain in a minute). Bouncy, steady, slow, controlled. Harley didn't squirt out forward, his trot isn't at ALL flat, it's very 'Up&Down', and yet it's slow. I hope to get some video of me riding that trot, maybe not to post, but so I can watch it myself, and see exactly what his feet are doing. It felt like he was picking through the flat pasture, but staying in the gait. Knowing I could find his trot, I tried to find his slowdown button. I sat deep, and sighed. That was ALL it took. Harley broke to a walk, let out a heavy sigh, licking and chewing.
In the final minutes of walk, something rustled in the CRN's tree line. Harley stopped quick, ears pricked. I was able to wiggle, squeeze, dance my toosh, until he walked through it. To my delight, he didn't try to run through the scary spot, he didn't cock his head and neck sideways at it, he instead walked on by, very hesitant.
Satisfied with our ten or fifteen minutes of saddled work, I called him "done." Really?! The saddle was all he needed to get moving? I will guess he hadn't carried human weight bareback, and I was the first. Scared, he didn't buck, he didn't take off, he didn't try to get rid of me, he just stood still. Great! Is this how he will always handle fear, by stopping? THAT is something I can live with a thousand times more than running away scared.
Things that went great this ride:
Walking and trotting under saddle without a single "bad" moment
NO Lunging warmup (got on cold!)
NO babysitter - therefore, no video or pictures. Let me 'splain. I'm sure some of you are thinking, "First time under saddle, why in the pasture, why not the arena, and child! why nobody there to video?! Heck, why nobody there to watch you just in case?"
I'm braver when I'm alone. When I get these "wild hairs" to do something adventurous and new, they are sudden, and without thought. If I think about it long enough to call Jen, or R, and say, "Hey, I'm going to ___ today. Can you come babysit?", that's just long enough to chicken out. So when I get the notion I'm going to try something, I need to get after it pretty quick. I'd decided right after Ransom's ride, that I wanted to ride Harley for real, and I needed to act on it quickly, before I lost my nerve.
Biggest, Baddest, Best part? At no moment did I get scared, or did I have to remind myself to "fake calm". Harley never gave me a cause to be worried, and for that, he got ample cookie and verbal praise.