The most important thing I noticed about my ride on the Arabian mare was her responsiveness to the aids. While Aana didn't squirt out from underneath me, her reactions were very quick. When I asked her to turn, I got something more like a rollback than a simple change of direction. All the mare's responses were edgier than one would want for an inexperienced rider.
Because Lindsay's balance is impaired, I was concerned the green broke mare might interpret my daughter's attempts to correct her position as cues. There was also the possibility Lindsay might grip with her legs and the mare would speed up where a seasoned horse like Dandy would recognize her unsteadiness as a reason to ignore the squeeze and wait for confirmation in the form of a verbal cue.
As I felt the mare's reactions to me, I noticed she was actually calmer about me on her back than I had expected. I figured I could get her to this point with some riding time but getting it from the start I read as an assurance the mare's trust would be a big factor in how thing's went with Lindsay.
I don't think I rode the mare more than a few minutes. Some trips around the round pen and several changes of direction, I worked just long enough to give me a good feel for the horse so, hopefully, I could forsee any issues and stop them from becoming a wreck.
Aana stood for me to dismount just as well as she had for me to mount. Once on the ground I directed Lindsay to come in as I added the lead rope to the halter. Then the stirrups were adjusted to fit Lindsay and it was time for Lindsay to mount.
I don't even recall how long it's been since Lindsay was on a horse. It's been that long. Her effort to mount was much more graceful than mine despite the many years that have passed.
As she sat down into the saddle Aana dropped her head down that six inches I would like to have seen when I rode. It was clear this mare was totally comfortable with Lindsay in the saddle.
I looked up at Lindsay to ask her if she was ready. A broad smile graced her face as she nodded her head. She was ready to move. I instructed her to cluck to her mare and as she did, the mare immediately moved forward.
Lindsay lurched forward, not because the mare reacted too big but because of my daughter's impaired balance. As Lindsay fell forward she instinctively pulled on the reins. It was not a huge grab at the mare's mouth but still a confusing cue. The mare did not flinch despite the intrusion in her mouth. She slowed a bit but did not stop suddenly like she would had I been the culprit. It was clear from those first steps. Aana was not worried about Lindsay riding her.
At first we walked the perimeter of the pen just like a lead line class. When Lindsay would accidentally squeeze with her legs, Aana would speed up and Lindsay would pull back on the reins.
The mare did not loose patience or show concern over Lindsay's response to her quickening gait. Looking at her face, Aana was clearly paying close attention wanting to do what Lindsay wanted.
Despite the mare's sensitivity to Lindsay's balance issues, my daughter showed no signs of concern either. The only one concerned at all seemed to be me.
I watched that mare like a hawk looking for signs something might go wrong. The mare walked a true gait, not the mincey, nervous thing she had done when first ridden.
Sometimes I had to ask the mare to walk slower. I was getting tired keeping up with the pair but I didn't trust anyone else to lead her. I was taking no chances even if I was quickly running out of steam.
As it became clear Aana was paying close attention to my cues, I slowly began to increase the distance between the mare and me. If I could, I wanted to put her on the lunge line and turnover more control to Lindsay.
To be continued......
Defining Aana's Role