Today was a banner day! After nearly a year of trying to retrain my mare Tally, from her poor experience at the trainer, this was our
first day with no complications! The pieces finally all fell into place, and I was on Cloud 9!
This week has been rather busy at work, so Tally has mostly enjoyed turnout time. Yesterday was the first of six days at home – a nice respite from the chaos at work, and a chance to get more horse time in. I lunged Tally, to get the state of things, and I was pleased that her days away from work had not caused any backslide. It was as if we’d had no break. I was looking forward to making further progress over the next few days – but I was not prepared for today!
As soon as we entered the arena, Tally noticed that the “bridge” obstacle was leaning up against the railing at the far end of the arena. Her head went immediately high, and she snorted softly – but she proceeded to that end without hesitation. Still on alert, she walked all of the way to the bridge, assessed the situation, cautiously reached out, touched it – then turned to me, ready to work. This was my mare who was previously hyper-reactive to any change in her environment, to the point of being hard to control at times! She still notices, but now handles it with calm and courage!
Balance and Control
While at the trainer, last year, Tally suffered serious injury in her left hind leg and the left side of her back. As a result of these injuries, and the fact that she was kept in work while injured, she developed the habit of staying bent to the left at all times, and falling right on right turns and circles. The pain did not allow her to travel straight, but the habit lingered even long after the injuries healed. In fact, I’d backed off of riding her to the right this year, only doing work to the left while I tried to correct the habit in groundwork.
With the rest of her work coming along well, I pushed the envelope in recent weeks and confronted her habit of cutting in on the circles right. Our first session was a bit of an argument, but each session since has shown slight improvement. I have been encouraged, but expected a lot of work still ahead. Today was as close to perfect as you can get! Her circles right were well out to the end of the line – if I reeled her in slightly, she would take the line out the moment I released. Her inside hind print stepped into the front print – her previous habit had been a full width, plus, inside the front print! Finally, I could no longer see the top of her
rump as she went around – her balance was perfectly vertical! Her stride was relaxed, long and swinging – far more than I could have dreamed of accomplishing so soon!
If you’ve read my previous posts about my challenges with Tally, you’ll know that one of the most disturbing issues has been her canter. Upon returning from the trainer, the voice aid for canter caused panic. We’ve worked hard, and we’ve made great improvement – but today it all came together. With her balance challenges to the right, I’ve avoided canter work to the right. When she does canter, her balance issues cause her to run faster in an attempt to stay upright. With her impeccable balance today, I thought I’d take a chance – so glad I did!
Her first strides were off-balance slightly, so I had a moment of worry that I’d gone too far – but she found her own balance and settled into a nice stride. After a circle, before she could lose stride and balance, I asked for trot. The first stride was disorganized, but it immediately settled into a quite, stretchy trot, still in lovely balance! I took a chance, and tried again … as I watched her calmly finding her balance, staying attentive and thinking things through for herself, I was bursting with pride!
I don’t know if I was prouder of myself, for sticking it out and finding the answers to all her problems; or of her, for trusting me and overcoming all of her physical and emotional damage, to become an excellent student and partner! But I appreciated her calm patience as my pride poured out in hugs and kisses on her neck!
To finish out our perfect session, I took her on a stroll and graze around the back. Gone was the dragging on the lead line. Gone was
the hyper-vigilance. Gone was the stepping into my space. Instead, I had a calm, relaxed mare next to me as we strolled to her favorite grassy spot. The relaxation continued as I leaned on her while she munched away. Even as mom and Coffee went strolling past, it caused no more than a casual notice between bites. Here was a horse I could envision being my partner in any number of endeavors!
I know that the road from here will not be perfectly smooth – no journey with any horse will be without detours and speed bumps, and Miss Tally is a challenging horse at best. But today was the first time that I felt that anything is possible! I just need time, patience, and the right key to every locked door. Good thing I love challenges!
Be good to your horses!