Working with a Suspicious Mare – It Takes the Time it Takes

June 9 notes.

“You really should be documenting this process!” says my wise amiga, Sharon Madere.

Although the progress has been slow, we are miles ahead of where we were back in February.  Of course, I should have kept a daily journal.  It would have been interesting reading!

I have been doing lots and lots and LOTS of groundwork.  My number one priority throughout the last few months has been reinforcing signs of relaxation and attention.  Her willingness to accept food is a clear indicator of her state of mind.  There is a hierarchy of acceptance.  Although she still isn’t super keen to the click she knows the click means stop and good things happen.  If she doesn’t stop then I know she is over threshold – gotta find a place to backup to and start fresh.  Sometimes she stops but doesn’t take the food.  In those cases, I offer some scritchies which is sometimes preferred.  I know that the scritichies are reinforcing because she will stop when she hears the click and glance at me expectantly.  Plus, if she is really itchy she will wriggle her nose in ecstasy. 😉  But, I know we are getting somewhere when she will take the food.

At this point, she is doing great on the ground – up to walk, trot, and canter, nice and relaxed, balanced, and light.  The intention is to ride so I went through a process of having her wear a surcingle, a bareback pad, and then a saddle.  When we got to the saddle she said, no effin way.  She goes ballistic when the thing moves – the more she moves the more the saddle bounces, the more upset she gets.  🙁   I’ve tried different saddles, looking for one that suits her but that part is still a work in progress.  Meanwhile, without the saddle she just gets better and better.

So, I got on bareback!  She doesn’t mind me being on her at all.  She has remained completely relaxed throughout.  I’ve had perhaps 6 rides on her now.  First just walking around teaching her leg means go.  Also worked on right rein means look right and left rein means look left.  Put the two together and we have some rudimentary steering.  I put out little piles of alfalfa to give us a clear destination.  I’m encouraged by the fact that she is stopping and taking food when I click.

Today, I asked for 2 very brief trots, which she did and stopped when I clicked.  All good!

Now– just need to solve that saddle problem.  I’m thinking (hoping) that between a good fitting saddle and a rider to stabilize it, the whole thing becomes a non issue.  I will keep you posted on that!

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