Lindsay's balance is impaired. After the surgery to remove her brain tumor, she suffered posterior fossa syndrome which is medical jargon for extreme swelling. The resulting damage included almost total destruction of the balance center of her brain. Immediately after her surgery Lindsay could not walk or talk or even focus her eyes. Her fine motor skills were decimated and she could not speak. She had to relearn all those things but her balance was never restored 100%. She has a list to the left that is always there and she is unsteady on her feet. Uneven ground or changes of speed can cause her to fall where most people would hardly notice.
Because of this it was difficult for me to trust this situation. The mare was trying hard to please but I was concerned about her responding to Lindsay's movements as cues. Lindsay needed slow and steady for her to maintain balance but even that wouldn't guarantee Lindsay would not lose her balance.
Riding Aana would certainly help her gain strength and improve her balance but only if the mare could figure out how to be a good therapy horse. That would mean she would need to know appropriate ways to respond to Lindsay. Somethings she would need to ignore and some she might even need to intercede and assist Lindsay with her balance. I wondered if this was too nuch to ask of a green broke, aged mare.
I tried to be on top of any "cues" from Lindsay. I was hoping the mare could figure out she needed to be listening to me first and Lindsay second. If she could do this, Lindsay might actually be able to develop as a rider.
Walking beside the mare I watched her face closely for signs she was receiving some cue from Lindsay to move more forward. Then I countered the cue before Aana actually sped up. Sometimes, I would instruct Lindsay on what she could be doing to help the mare. Mostly that involved giving the mare more rein and not using the reins to assist in Lindsay's balance. Although Aana didn't seem to mind that, I didn't want Lindsay to be leaning on the mare's mouth. It wouldn't help Lindsay's balance and in the long run would interfere with what Lindsay really wanted to do and that was trail riding this mare.
As we did this I tried to lengthen the distance between the mare and me. Like landing a salmon, I worked the line in and out. Each time I put a little distance between us, I got more nervous about those cues from Lindsay so I would step in closer as I talked to the mare.
Before long I realized I was not trusting Aana when she was actually paying close attention to me. I gradually built up the distance between us until I finally was walking with the entire length of the lead rope stretched out between us. Once I was sure I didn't need to be walking close to the mare I decided it was time to try putting Aana on the lunge line. Doing that would give Lindsay the opportunity to do something more than just sitting there.
With Aana on the lunge, I asked Lindsay to guide her back to the rail. The mare didn't want to leave the security of proximity to me so she looked to me to see it was ok. I knew then that Aana had figured out her role in packing Lindsay. I breathed a sigh of relief as Lindsay worked at getting her mare to the rail. It was time for the real riding to begin.
To be continued......
Aana on the Line