I'm back from working Freelance. I took her rug off, and gave her a brush, then as always stood back off her and looked at her. That made me frown actually, because I've decided that her whole topline has completely vanished, and my lovely looking mare with fine breeding is looking more like a pit pony than the former description ought to imply. So I cursed at myself, and set about saddling her up (yes, I'd gone and bought the pellets first) while she ate brekky. She paused to give me a slight grumble at the sight of the saddle, but was too busy eating to toss her head in annoyance when I did the girth up. I forgot all about work boots for her, so her legs went naked, and I've decided that I really should buy her a nice set of thick work wrap around bandages to keep her legs safe (ok, yes, and because I think that they make your horse look nice too I say mutinously). I then grabbed all our lunge gear and we walked up to the arena together.
On the way up my mind started running over whether I should get on or not. And she did the usual try to leap into my lap at every small noise. There was far less nonsense on the lunge than I expected, and she hardly bucked at all, which surprised me. Last time she'd had such a break there was squealing and bucking, and the thought of getting on her at the end of it NEVER crossed my mind that day... She looked a little stiff and proppy to begin with, but then as she warmed up the rhythm came back, and she started looking like a horse again instead of the before mentioned pit pony. I then popped the side reins on her (because I can't find her chambon), and then began working her a little bit more seriously, and just breaking it up with transitions, trot, canter, trot, canter, etc.
I'd decided by this stage I was going to get on her and that I would try to be a little bit of hero. So when I thought she'd done enough on the lunge, (and I was deliberately keeping it short as I don't want her 'tying up' first time out) I brought her in and took her lunge gear off.
She seemed fine, and I jumped on, but could immediately feel that perhaps this wasn't going to be the smartest idea I'd that the morning. Once you're on though, it's too late, and getting off wasn't an option. She almost immediately started humping her back and didn't want to go forward, and of course my mind being my mind, I started thinking 'oh dear, here we go, you're going to buck me off aren't you?' Which made me nervous. This then made her think 'ah hah! you're nervous'... See, horses are not bikes. They are a whole different ball game.
So at this point it was all looking ordinary, until I took a deep breath, remembered Edgar and thought that there was more than one way of tackling a problem. If I'd insisted on the trot immediately I'm under no illusions that she would have bucked me straight off. And although the arena is nice and soft, I didn't relish that thought. So instead, I made her start thinking and concentrating on what I was asking her to do in the walk. This usually works with her, because it makes her concentrate on me. I also suggested to myself that, having done no work for so long and then suddenly working in a frame that perhaps my weight upon her back after all this time could have been slightly uncomfortable and contributing to her wanting to hump her back and think about bucking. Not that I weigh much at the moment, but I still gave her the benefit of the doubt.
I told her she was good, and we started doing small circles in the walk, getting her to flex around my inside leg, and opening up the inside rein to encourage her to flex through the gullet and the rib cage. Gradually I could feel the tension and the crossness leave her, which made the tension leave me. We did this for 5 minutes or so, swapping reins, and just getting her soft and round, and listening and responsive. And I told her she was good, but also insisted that she must go forward, so with little taps of the whip I said 'go forward, you must bend, ahh.. good girl'.
Finally I popped her into a trot. It took half a lap before she gave the idea of humping her back and bucking me off, and the moment she softened I told her how good she was. Nice soft hands, just encouraging the flexion, and just asking her to be soft, and round. I probably only did 4 circles on each rein, and finished by telling her I trusted her and letting the reins out for her to trot on the long rein and stretch her neck right down. Which she did gladly and being on her when she trots and bounces with that old rhythm felt good. And it made me feel like me again.. But no, I didn't push and try to be Superwoman, and I didn't attempt a canter. I'll leave that for another day. The goal is to have a fit mare and have us working properly again by spring time.