Once everything in the round pen was in order, I brought the Arabian mare in to lunge her. Like any other horse I lunge before I ride, the object of lunging was not to tire the mare; it was to take her emotional temperature. I just wanted to see how Aana would respond to me working her and give her dome time to get comfortable with me of she needed it.
While the mare always seems to be relaxed around Lindsay, she can sometimes look at me like she's unsure of what's expected. During those times she tends to be tense and a little bit reactive. For this to work, I needed the mare to be relaxed about my involvement.
With the halter positioned over her bridle, I'd removed the reins and attached the lunge line directly to the halter. Then I sent the mare off around me.
At first Aana had that unsure, OMG what is this expression but it quickly changed to a relaxed comfortable demeanor. Even changing directions didn't seem to rattle her. She was paying close attention to me wanting to please. It didn't take but a few minutes for me to decide we'd done enough lunging.
The mare stood fairly quietly as I rolled up the lunge line and the stirrups were adjusted. The few times she did move were about her misreading what was expected. It was clear Aana was trying her best to do what was wanted and she didn't seemed concerned that I was asking.
Only recently have I have had the strength to mount a horse from the ground without assistance. I've done it only a couple of times. It hasn't been all that long that I have been able to mount from the ground at all, but mostly that has been with someone holding my stirrup.
With this mare's tendency to be nervous, I didn't want to put any unnecessary pressure on her. Since her nerves are about distrust of humans, I didn't want to add another person into the mix just to assist me in mounting. I worried having someone holding my stirrup or holding the mare could be beyond her comfort level. Even though It did cross my mind I could be at risk if the mare did not stand still, I was willing to take that chance hoping to assure Aana stayed quiet enough for me to trust her with my impaired daughter on her back.
While I have more strength, i'm not really all that steady. I wasn't worried the mare would bolt but I knew I would be vulnerable to loosing my balance and falling if she should move at just the right moment. If I fell I was sure Aana's confidence would be shattered and that would mean the end of Lindsay's birthday ride.
Walking off or fidgeting had been a problem during the mare's recent works. She had been schooled on the behavior but that didn't assure it wouldn't re-emerge with a different rider. Still I wasn't willing to put any more pressure on this mare. I decided I would trust her to take care of me as I would be trusting her to take care of Lindsay.
Aana repaid that trust just as I expected. She stood like a rock while I got into the saddle despite my clumsiness. Once mounted she made the smallest gesture signaling she intended to walk off before I had my reins adjusted but she stopped off the sound of my voice before actually taking a step.
When I did ask her to move off, the mare was tense but not jogging or pushy in any way. The tension in her body quickly dissipated even though she didn't drop her head as low as I would have liked to see.
I had assumed that Lindsay would be content just to be astride her mare. With her many therapy miles at the end of a lunge line, I figured my daughter would accept that was the reasonable place for her to begin her journey riding again. Along that vein I figured if we could walk, we would. I would gauge how far things progressed by both the mare and Lindsay's response.
I was pretty sure we would not get beyond walking. Aana has trouble being relaxed even at that gait so it was hard to imagine we might actually get beyond it.
Because I didn't want to create any anxiety for Aana, I decided I wouldn't ask her to do for me anything I didn't think she would need to do for Lindsay. Walking calmly and comfortably, changing directions and starting and stopping were the skills I planned to assess as I rode this mare. How she handled those things would determine if Lindsay got to take the first steps toward riding trails again someday.
To be continued.........
an Issue of Trust