WE DID IT!!! Oh, I have dreamed of this day for so long!!!
We've been prepping for this day for a very long time. To go from a horse that couldn't even be haltered in a stall to this.... there really aren't words for it. Miles and miles of prep work on the ground went into this day, and it all paid off. Despite it being cold, windy, and generally miserable outside, I decided to suit up and decide whether or not to get on depending on her demeanor today.
It almost was a no-go. She was up, hot, and reactive, and was especially disagreeable about bridling today. I've been bridling her in the roundpen, just so that we have more room to maneuver, but she has not improved yet. Bribery with treat and praise have not helped either - when it comes to things that really concern her, she shuts her mouth tight and refuses to take a cookie. I tried a new tactic today that actually worked surprisingly well, despite the drama involved leading up to it - pull headstall up over her head and attach the throatlatch before the headslinging begins. When she made her move to flail, it didn't come off, and she stopped her thrashing and looked at me in a sort of "um... now what? Can you help please?" way. After that, she let me pull both ears through for the first time EVER. Once the headstall is on, she opens her mouth happily and takes the bit, and she wears the entire thing without any sort of fuss or care. But those EARS. I am also dying to give her a bridlepath, but there is absolutely no way on this planet that it will happen anytime soon. She is going in to have her teeth done in a week or two, and when she is sedated I will have the vet check her ears for ticks or other nasty things, just in case. (And maybe when she is drugged I can do something about the bridlepath... maybe). She likely also needs a chiro adjustment at the poll... just... HOW to have that done when she is still so afraid of having it touched? She is still terrified of strangers as well... we're stuck between a rock and a hard place. How to explain to her that good things come from having your head touched? She is simply not bribe-able... no amount of cookies or pets convinces her that it is worth it.
After a brief bit of lunging, I spent ten or so minutes doing additional desensitization work with the saddle. I've already done a lot of this, but it never hurts to do more - get on and off the mounting block, stomp on it, slap the saddle, bounce the stirrups, lean on her, pat her on the bum, stand in the stirrups, etc. I did this on both the left and right sides, the right being her more reactive side. She was still a little bit tense and jumpy, but she relaxed into it. Once I felt she was ready, I turned on the camera and went for it.
And she was GREAT. She did exactly what I expected her to do, especially given the bit of bad weather we're currently having. When my right leg materialized out of nowhere on her right side, she went WHOA WHERE DID THAT COME FROM? and scooted. She is a quick little thing, that is for sure! Hours of practicing "whoa" and standing still paid off at that point, and she stopped and stood quietly. More hours of teaching the command for "walk on" and making sure her hotheaded little self knows the difference between "time to walk nicely forward" and "time to GO" also paid off, and she listened to the verbal command for walk. It took a very long time and hours on the lunge to convince her that it is okay to just walk forward quietly instead of zooming off straight away into a power trot whenever she is asked to move forward, but I am certainly glad that she finally has the idea down. The prep work with grounddriving also came in handy, and she already knows how to steer and how to follow verbal commands from behind her. She has seen me plenty of times from Pangea's back, and so the idea of me being up there wasn't totally foreign. It all came together into exactly what I expected her first ride to be, and nothing unsurprising. I opted to go without a handler, simply because other people still scare her half to death. She knows me and had her full attention on me, and it worked. I don't normally get on youngsters without a handler, but I was glad I did in this case.
The video is a bit long and is a little bit boring, but it is worth it!
We have a very unpleasant widespread soaking rainstorm heading into the area tonight, and it is supposed to continue to rain and be generally crappy all day tomorrow. The girls are up in outside stalls for the night (there are trees in the pasture but no actual shelter or windbreak), and will probably be stuck there all day tomorrow as well. Immy will have a few days off for sure to mull this riding thing over, and we'll start up again later in the week. SO AWESOME!!
The girls say, aw crap, for real?