Right when I got there I was told that the pony was hyped up and needed to stretch her legs, so we put her in the indoor arena. She made a few laps with tail up, snorting at her reflection in the mirrors and sliding to a stop at the gate. Then I remembered I had brought my camera. So of course, after I got the camera out she just wanted to hang out and be mellow. I know that I could have made her run for the sake of pictures, but I'm working on seeing the pony as a calm, mellow horse and less of a fire breathing dragon so watching her gallop around the arena wasn't my first priority.
Here are some photos of her hanging around in the arena. Isn't she pretty? The vet said I looked like a proud parent today with my camera.
So after I was done snapping a thousand and one pictures, I saddled up. I was pretty nervous so I told myself I didn't have to ride. I didn't even put on my tall boots so there was no pressure. I had watched a video on horsehero.com this morning about respect and lunging and how to engage your horse more, so when she wasn't listening well on the lunge I took her off and worked on disengaging her hindquarters. Then we worked on reacting to the whip when I tapped her with it. Then we disengaged the hindquarters again. At the end of fifteen minutes she was licking, chewing and watching me carefully. I felt really, really good. She walked when I walked, stopped when I stopped, backed up respectfully if she was in my space. I was in charge. So I got on. Our walk work started off a little shaky. There was a lot going on and pony wanted to see if I was *really* going to make her pay attention. Yes, yes I was.
We went into trot and things fell apart the way they have been. By this time there was an audience, including Trainer #1 who has been very passive aggressive about my defection to L. My confidence plummeted, the pony took over and we were slogging around a 20 meter circle with me bouncing all over and her taking canter hop steps and flinging her head backwards. Tapping with the whip resulted in a buck and more head flinging. I felt the ball of tension firing up in my stomach and my arms turned to iron. I dragged her around, flustered and frustrated and embarrassed. Then I remembered what L said last week....if it falls apart, go back to where it's good and start over. So we walked. And worked on marching in the walk. Then we tried trotting again. It fell apart again. So we walked and walked. Success. Trot. Fail. Walk. Success. Walk to trot. Fail. Trot to walk, tap with whip. Success. Walk to trot. One step of success! Walk again. Walk to trot. Trot to walk. By this time, I've forgotten there's anyone there but me and the pony. I don't care what I look like. I don't care when we fall apart because we're learning. Walk to trot. Ask for more forward trot. She canter hops. Bring her down, push the trot forward and ask for canter. And we're cantering!! I'm tucking my seat and sitting back and then bringing her back down into a forward, gorgeous trot. Before it can fall apart we walk again. Then we got the other way. Walk. Trot. Fail. Walk. Success. Walk. Trot. Canter step. Okay, we'll canter then! And we canter the other way until I bring her into another perfect forward trot. We stop then and there are congratulatory pats for the pony and lots of "Good Girls" But when I'm praising her, I'm also praising myself. I stuck with it. I wasn't afraid. I was all sorts of other emotions, but I was NOT afraid.
We ended our ride at the scary end of the arena which we usually don't venture into. We just stood there, her and I, watching the horses outside enjoy the sunshine. I patted her rump and she blew a long exhale out her nose and I knew we were going to be just fine, her and I.