So its back to the beginning. Well, not completely. I have built a nice relationship with Arrow of trust and have increased her confidence so much so, she is now willing to go all over the property and even into neighboring fields and forests. I even took her to a trail challenge which we did alone and she went through every challenge with me riding her except for two things, two serious “squeeze obstacles” which I dismounted and led her through. These are the decisions I continue to make to ensure she knows that I “have her back”. Parelli’s training which i have studied for many years now, says “Expect a lot, Accept a little and Reward often.” A good mantra for any relationship. So knowing her lack of skill and exposure and the plain fact that she is a prey animal, I recognize her big “tries” and reward them as much as possible. This is the key I believe to building confidence.
So after a year of ridden work, I sent her to my Amish friend for driving basics because he has a pleasant way with horses and lots of experience driving. They were hesitant to take her seeing that she was already 8 yrs old and not having good experiences. The first thing they did was hitch Arrow with an experienced and calm draft horse and she did fine. Then they took her single down the road. She handled traffic and all pretty well, but when there was a turn or if he drove her past the barn too far on the way back home, she would begin the jigging and rearing and wouldn’t settle. So, they didn’t feel it would be profitable to keep going and I should be happy with her as a riding horse. After 3 weeks with them, I brought her home.
About two months after that experience, I put the harness on her. She began breathing
abnormally, very short breaths, almost hyperventilating. When I picked up the reins to long line her, she quickly and gracefully, backed herself into the open door of the tack room! I was astonished, but still clueless, so proceeded with MY plan for the day. I led her out of the barn and down to the round pen. I put a single tree yoke on her traces and was going to attach a tire for her to drag but she escalated. Finally, I came to my senses. Time to change my plan. Baby steps, not giant leaps. I should have recognized it sooner, a good leader is flexible and knows when to adjust to meet the horse that shows up that day! So, back to the barn we went. I told her what a good girl she was for trying, gave her some scratches and cookies and then unharnessed her.
A few days later, I tried again. This time, lots of cookies and scratches and she was fine being harnessed, no anxious breathing or backing into the tack room! Today was going to be about whatever she wanted to offer. When I picked up the lines and asked her to walk on, she circled in the center of the aisle, stopped and then turned and looked back at me. I smiled, put the lines on her back, walked to her head and told her how brilliant she was! I picked up the lines, asked her to walk on and she gave me TWO circles around the very small barn aisle and stopped. I responded the same as the first. The next time, she took one step off the cement pad of the barn aisle into the driveway and then stepped back up into the barn and stopped. Lots of praise. She continued to offer more and more. Finally, I asked for her to go out farther and she did but became a little unsettled. We came back to the barn, rested and then I asked for one more offer without adding anything else and we ended the session with that. The secret of tomorrow’s success is ending on a good note today!