If there's one thing training baby horses has taught me, it's to assume nothing. This past weekend was extremely windy, but we pressed on with training regardless. On Saturday I decided to longe Halo with the saddle on for the first time. As noted in a previous entry, she's been saddled one time before, but all we did was walk around the arena and back down to the hitching rail. Foolishly, I assumed she wouldn't be too perturbed about the saddle a second time. Wrong!
It took longer to saddle her the second time than it did the first. She mostly seemed concerned by me lifting the saddle above waist level, so we did that several times on both sides of her until it wasn't an issue any longer. Through the process I left her lead rope threaded through the hitching rail, but not actually tied. One of the women at the barn asked why I didn't just tie her fast and make her accept the saddle. I explained that Halo used to set back, and that I didn't want to give her an excuse to revert to that behavior in panic. Although wary, eventually Halo accepted the saddle quietly, turning her nose to sniff at it. I put it on and off a couple of times with and without the pad, and soon she didn't care at all.
I got the girth done up with no problems (strangely, she shows no fear of the girth, even with the rattly buckles) and took her out to longe. At first she felt a little explosive in-hand, but once I got her out on the longe line, I realized she wasn't actually trying to motor forward. It felt odd when I was leading her, because her initial reaction to the saddle was to tuck her tail between her legs and hunch her back up. She did her best to move out on the longe at the gaits I requested, but I could tell she was hesitant, and every time the wind blew up one of the saddle flaps, she eyeballed it and hunched her back up again.
Surprisingly she only bucked two or three times - it was mostly just humpback Halo, gallumphing around in a circle and wanting to stop when she got confused. Despite that, she behaved herself well even though she was clearly distracted by the presence of the saddle and would have preferred to focus on that rather than her longe lesson.
On Sunday we did the regular longe lesson without the saddle, and she was mostly good. We are now working on cleaning up her down transitions since she's capable of cantering. Canter to trot is an especially clumsy transition for her right now because she anticipates me asking her to whoa. She just loves to stop fast, and always looks so pleased with herself when she does. So we've been working on walk-trot-canter-trot-walk-whoa transitions, usually in that order, sometimes mixed up so she doesn't anticipate things.
On one of her down transitions from canter she decided to stop abruptly, and when I attempted to urge her back onto the circle she backed up and reared up a couple of times. I got her moving forward again and we pushed through it. Hopefully it does not become a habit. She's a baby though, and I anticipate that she will continue to test her limits in different ways. It's what babies do best.
In other news, I also rode on Saturday morning, and I've finally found a horse I love to ride! I gave up on the western saddle and put my trusty dressage saddle on Cash. It was great fun. He's still green, but I found him very responsive and smart. I'll write more on him as I hopefully begin to ride more often.