I recently remembered two essential things:
- I have an English saddle.
- The English saddle fits Rocky pretty well.
We are building each other’s physical strength with 5 or 10 minutes of walking on Sundays and Wednesdays, mostly around the ranch, with a little bit of playtime in the arena. It takes about an hour all told, because I’m taking the time it takes, for grooming and warming up and assessing a sensible mental goal for the session.
For example, the first day, we tested our mental agility by opening the gate to let ourselves out of the arena and then closing it again, all from the saddle. Rocky figured out what I needed to do and helped me, and if we had to walk around the outside of the arena between closing the gate and latching it, so be it! We got ‘er done.
Yesterday, I added a carrot stick and tried to use my reins only for steadying and not for steering. We both did pretty well for most of our ride, and I did a lot of friendly game while we walked, petting him all over with the end of the stick. We had one accidental bonk, where either I poked Rocky in the eye with the leather popper or he poked the leather popper with his eye; we ended up facing 180 degrees away from where we had been facing, but at no point during Rocky’s full-body flinch-and-shake and whirl around did I feel off-balance or frightened or like I was going to fall. All I felt was sorry that I’d been clumsy and affectionately exasperated that we had set ourselves up for such a thing. I felt like I actually sat deeper in the saddle and took up more of the contact and calmed him, without dropping my stick or reins or panicking or wobbling.
I forget sometimes that despite not riding very much (compared to what?), I have ridden enough to become more proficient than my memories of myself as a rider. That is, my self-image hasn’t caught up to my reality.
My physical prowess has also increased due to my shift in attitude. I no longer fear that I will insult or hurt my horse. I now have confidence about being the Mommy (and, sometimes, the Daddy). Emotional confidence opens the door to physical confidence.
Now we both have two days off to think about what we learned.