I have wondered if Rocky would be Sorted into Ravenclaw for his cleverness or into Gryffindor for his courage. Today I had to lean toward Gryffindor, because it’s only session 3 (out of 7 planned) of “bravery with flags” and he was less reactive than he was yesterday, and took less time to recover from EEK! and get to “look I’m touching it / lowering my head/ reaching under it can I have a cookie now.”
After playing with Rocky, I got River out and set up our obstacles for the patterns we’ve been practicing. Just like yesterday, trotting felt jarring and stiff. Instead of giving up though I tried several things like asking for a bend, asking for more forward, asking for some soft feel, and trying a combo of straights and curves.
There was a hay bag in the arena from earlier in the day and I worked it into our patterns for rest breaks and rewards. River was Aware of the bag the whole time and did some interesting moves in her attempts to get to it — turning her nose as if to circle the barrel while drifting sideways in the direction of the hay. This added a challenge for me because I only have so much stamina for riding the trot in a bareback pad, and yet I didn’t want to stop unless things were going well.
I think I’m doing okay too, because she saw me coming and met me at the gate. And River would not hesitate to express her opinion if she felt disrespected or unhappy with our sessions. Her whickering at me, meeting me at the gate, shoving her nose into the halter, all tell me that I have a green light from River.
I am so excited that I’ve reached a level where I can feel the difference, where I have some arrows in my quiver to try to improve things, and where I can actually do more than just “hold on and not fall” in a bareback pad. In fact it didn’t occur to me until afterward that I could have switched to a saddle, when not long ago I was sitting on River’s back for five minutes while she walked around and then jumping off delighted with my achievement.
I haven’t solved the unfluid thing yet but we did end more pliably than we began. And she was sweet and put effort into her part of the dance when it was Scott’s turn, so I know that my experimenting with language and leadership did not leave her upset.