Progress to make Arthur my main man has begun with a vengeance.
I've been wrestling with this whole idea for a while, but especially the past month as I've realized I won't have Piper as functioning for as long as I was hoping. Since Arthur is the only one around here that can't get pregnant, isn't 500 years old, and isn't 13hands tall, he's the obvious choice for a regular partner. Also, I haven't put all this work into him to not ride him. So this was the first reality I accepted.
Next, Mr Shane texted me out of the blue that he had a client horse back at the farm and could meet with me some more to work Arthur. If this wasn't fated I don't know what is. Also, Shane and Kathleen are the best. If I had a million dollars I'd give it to them for helping me with Arthur and my hot messness. Since I don't have that, I just offer a million thanks for now. This was reality number two.
Last Thursday I met up with a local dressage trainer and talked to her for a bit and then watched her teach a lesson. It was really fun hearing about haunches in, collection, and uphillness once again. Never once was a mention of making a circle in the wrong direction mentioned. It felt great to be in this environment once again and the proximity to my house makes it a no brainer. Our area is sometime really awesome for quality things. After chatting with her about all my beasties, she thought Arthur was the best bang for my buck, but it wasn't really her speciality until I could walk, trot, canter him but she was willing to help as she could. This is reality three.
So with these three realities coming about at the same time, I knew I had to do something in earnest. I'm feeling fitter, riding better, and eating healthier. The days are plenty long and its only going to be dark and cold if I wait until the winter to do things. So I set up a time to meet Shane and off we went.
This was on Friday.
I'd warned Shane that I was going to be a hot mess. From the previous month I knew this was going to happen. From the moment I knew I was going to be riding Arthur I felt nauseous to a slight degree. Logically this was a bit insane, but I have to have at least ONE girlie moment. So I rode Friday night. Aside from some mounting block issues (Shane fixed that in 5 seconds before I wrecked it again in 5 more seconds), Arthur did great and I managed to not throw up. We did a couple of turns and that was probably about it. I'm not sure, I was too focused on not dying. Plus sides were that I didn't sweat profusely and wasn't shaking like a leaf. I also found a few moments where I could think and actually react without delay (more like normal). Shane pointed out (wise sage that he is) that I needed to trust Arthur and that he was a really nice horse. BUT HE'S A BUCKER - in my head. But he hasn't been a bucker for me and I need to let it go. Sometimes it feels like people that cheat... he cheated before so he was going to cheat on me. Maybe that's a bad analogy but that's kinda how I felt.
On the way home, a few of my dog training clients called in for Saturday night training, leaving me free to torment Shane again. I immediately texted him about coming out again on Saturday.
Saturday was a lot of reflection. I'm not by nature a weenie, its a developed trait that came about with getting a freaking amazeballs life, husband, kid, job, etc and I realize how quickly that could all change should I get hurt. So I'm taking calculated risks. Horseback riding is one of these things. Oddly enough. However I came up with some more truths: I needed to trust Arthur (honestly) to give him a fair shot. He wasn't a cheater, he was a horse that was mistrained an misused. Since I've had him (even at his worst), he has never been a monster. He's a sweet, kind horse that tries his hardest to please. Next thing was that I had to let go of this "not dying is good enough" crap. Its been a crutch for about a year now and I need to shed that. Working out and all that is part of the plan, but working Arthur and manning up to the rider that lives in me is the other part. Finally, I wasn't going to waste Shane's time any further by being an idiot. We have work to do here and its going to get done.
Big girl panties on.
That evening I loaded up Arthur and the husband stayed at home (another safety blanket thing of mine gone) while I went out to the farm. We got started right away and naturally there were horses and roping steers all around the round pen. Awesome. Arthur was minimally distracted and we worked through that in less than 5 minutes. Out of things to work on the ground with him on, we went to the mounting block and he stood like a rock. I got on and everything was fine. Clucking him off I focused on relaxing (particularly my back which I'd recalled being particularly tight previously on him) and using my hips casually to get us around the pen. Arthur did great and was fully focused. From there we worked on our one rein stops, turning/steering, halting and then a few steps of back up. Oh and we trotted. Hear that? WE TROTTED! OK, so it was like 2 steps. Maybe 4. My body didn't know if I should sit it or post it... it was just so much trot and so much lovely. We easily came to a halt right after and I was happy. Shane kept saying the magic words (trust him, trust your horse, etc) and I kept it up. It was a great ride and I wasn't a flailing hot mess. Win.
Today was the first time I've ridden Arthur at the house in a month or so. I waited until the end of the day as that's when I normally ride. My son was riding his battery powered four wheeler all around and Arthur was interested in it. No spooking, but not his normal comatose self either. Oh well. We tacked up and I told my son to stay away while I rode. I did a few things in the round pen with my beastie and then my son came around with his four wheeler yet again. This time I told him to get off completely and wait. He went to the garage and I started to mount. The mounting block started to be an issue on round one, but I regrouped and on round two, everything was fine. I mounted, adjusted my stirrups and heard the whirring of the four wheeler just as Arthur's head jutted up and locked onto it. Awesome. I yelled something at my son (including a lovely expletive I believe) and that was the end of that. Granted the yelling from his back was more frightening to Arthur than the four wheeler, but at least we didn't have any episodes so I felt pretty good about it.
At this point I'll say that I believe in Arthur being able to work around these types of distractions. I will also acknowledge that part of the issue was me. It was our first time to do all these new exercises at the house. I wanted it to go smoothly and then we can move on later to introducing things like 7 year olds and four wheelers. We already had plenty of road traffic about 20 feet away.
After that fiasco was over, we got into working on our turns, one rein stops, backing up, and yup, trotting. This time I completely trusted him and let him do his thing. Man that boy is soooo smooth and wonderful. I let him go about 1/4 of the way around before asking him to one rein stop down. It was pretty tempting to let him keep going but we're working on lots of small good experiences so I let it go.
Now for tomorrow!