Comfort is RELAXING! I am really starting to see it come together with her. I finally feel like we are back to our old selves and now even surpassing that mark. Comfort is keeping her cool, and I am happy and confident! I am loving this feeling and each good session with Comfort is building on the last like a chain reaction in perpetually positive motion! I feel like one session that isn’t perfect won’t make our whole masterpiece fall apart, and that’s, I think, what being a real team is supposed to feel like.
I can’t stress enough the value of riding lessons in this whole process. I’ve only had 4 lessons since I moved to the new barn which was months and months ago, but I realized that having someone validate what you are doing is extremely important and makes you a much stronger rider.
[[Edit: I feel like I did not express myself accurately, upon re-reading this post, and there’s actually a few things I’d like to add. I would not suggest taking on your first green pony without a trainer or instruction, and for me to have ridden Comfort independently for so long was never my intention and was due to a horrible string of unfortunate circumstances that were beyond my control. During that time, I regularly was taking lessons at other barns on schooled horses. Additionally, I had a close group of experienced trainers available to me over the phone and willing to visit me in person. I think one of the most important components of all this, for someone whose been riding one discipline for a long time (like me), is to have instruction that works with what you already know instead of against it. Having my trainer-bestie, who I’ve mentioned in other posts, along with the rest of my Blacksburg pony family, saved me, but our plan all along had been for me to find an instructor available on site who understood my background, was non-judgmental about our progress and intentions, and knew how to deal with a variety of horse types, including green ponies and extra sensitive ponies. Last but not least, an instructor that understood ponies (as opposed to horses). Some people are very anti-pony (I mean, you’d really be surprised!!!). I’ve seen people who just don’t get ponies, and you and your instructor probably won’t click if your instructor thinks that what you’re doing is a waste of your and their time.]]
I think the thing I needed most was just someone to tell me that we are doing a good job and that they are completely confident in me as a rider. Now I feel like I can move forward, make tweaks, and communicate on a more subtle level with my pony. I also have a friend that is willing to watch a low quality 20 minute video of me trotting around an arena, willing to drive over an hour to help me and ride my pony when she goes wonky, and is constantly available for phone support at all times of day. ***Thank you, universe, for bringing me my pony savior bestie.*** You really do have to take care of yourself before you can take care of someone else, whether that be human or animal.
My instructor has also given me some really valuable tips, one of the most insightful being that my pony is the equivalent of an OTTB. My instructor has had tons of experience converting OTTBs into pleasure riding horses and once she and I started applying her zen techniques on Comfort, my little pony started polishing up quite nicely, moving out, rounding her back, stretching her neck, flexing better, and relaxing. The ultimate!
If you’re curious about what we’ve been doing, it’s basically just that we are asking Comfort to turn, circle, figure 8, serpentine, and basically squiggle around the arena at the walk until we see her visibly relax. At the trot, we are focusing on keeping her nose straight and keeping our rhythm consistent. We are working on me slowing her with my posting and keeping her engaged and guessing until she trusts me and relaxes. Another piece we added in was keeping the contact a little stronger. She seems to like it better. Lastly, I’ve been working on keeping my weight in the saddle better and using my abs more. It’s all coming together!
Update – The Micklem bridle and french link snaffle are doing great for Comfort! We have a great connection, and she and I have nice long talks via our rein walkie talkies. I’ve been able to keep her on progressively lighter contact! I also recently noticed that I shorten the reins unnecessarily to trot – trust is so very important. Trust fearlessly.
Trust fearlessly, don’t care what you look like. Don’t let your horse step on your hair.