Dani and I have had some bumps in the road. Some growing, saddle-fitting, unhappy mare bumps. We've been smoothing them out with saddle shopping, chiropractic work, and aqua-puncture. My hunch that her reluctance to trot out with me was not behavioral was proven right last night with our first time of significant improvement in about six weeks. I have a miracle-working vet to thank - Dani trusted him and snuffled the blue block that he used to stand on while he worked on her like it might have a hay bale inside. She got a couple more days off and then, last night was the "big reveal"....did it help?
The answer is a resounding "YES!" Her whole attitude was different, maybe I'm projecting a little but to me it seemed relieved and thankful. I lunged first. We've done a lot of that lately, something I've always avoided because it made me feel like a huge klutz - tangled lunge line, awkward and unclear body language. With some help from my two wonderful trainers and a cooperative mare I am finally getting the hang of it! "Trot-trot" I say, and off the tall bay goes. "Canter" I say, sort of lifting off in my own shoulders and skipping along with her inside lead. Around she floats. I stand in the center and admire her and decide lunging is pretty great after all. When we change direction she takes it upon herself to trot and then canter off. I don't stop her because I can tell she just wants to move, and she isn't at all fractious or out of control. I make her keep going past the point she wants to stop, and she comes back down to a lovely, back-stretching walk, blowing. A fellow boarder steps out of her horse's stall along the arena to chat, I bring Dani to a halt.
This is the part, one of those moments that I know we're connecting, that she's becoming mine (oh, who am I kidding...that I'm becoming hers). She stands out there, at least ten feet away at the end of the lunge line, facing me but not coming any closer. She does not move a muscle. Her ears are pricked toward me and she is watching me, intently, the entire time. I'm reminded of those herding-breed dogs in obedience trials who stare eagerly at their trainers, waiting for the next instruction. It's like that. I am humbled and amazed. I finish the conversation, the other woman remarks on her confidence and the way she is tuned in, and I walk out to the circle to scratch Dani's forehead.
I've already put the bareback pad on, and it's time to see what we've got. Since she's already well warmed up, I walk a couple of circles and then ask for the trot. She's a little sticky at first, anticipating the discomfort that's been plaguing us for weeks. I try to stay out of her way, let her find herself. We change direction a few times, she stretches down and then...there it is again. She's working, taking those deep huffing breaths and swinging strides, I'm posting bareback without even thinking about it. I pick up a little more contact, a few more circles and she just gets better and better. She feels happy. It's barn closing time, and we're supposed to come back slow, so I call it a night. She gets a rub-down with her green scratchy mitt and so many "Apple Blasts" which are the equine equivalent of Cheetos. I say goodnight, I turn out the arena lights. I can't wait to come back even before I've left.