An absolutely wonderful thing happened on Wednesday when I rode Mia.

After our usual warm-up of two speeds of the walk and threading our way between and around the jumps I prepared for a trot, shortening the reins, getting my heels down, and then I politely asked Mia to trot. To my utter amazement, Mia trotted off the first time I asked her to! After 18 months of urge, urge, urge before she would shuffle off in a slow trot, she MOVED INTO A GOOD TROT THE FIRST TIME I ASKED!!! I was floored (not literally, I DID put my heels down), and Debbie was floored too. Neither of us expected this, not ever, for Mia is not only arthritic but in her mid-20's. We had been hoping for a so-so trot, not ever expecting much more.

After trotting around the ring, praising Mia highly, I went into a walk. It was such a NICE trot, with her hind legs reaching beneath her body, with Mia smoothly springing from diagonal to diagonal. After walking a little I turned the other way and asked for the trot. Again, Mia instantly sprang into a good trot the first time I asked. WOW!!!! Debbie and I were smiling broadly in disbelief while Mia was sort of going 'what is all the excitement about, I'm just trotting'. This continued for around 10 minutes, walk, ask for the trot, and Mia going immediately into a good trot, until I got too tired to help Mia and Mia got too tired to do the good trot without my help.

I love this wonderful moment, when a horse finally shows me what it can do when ridden properly. I felt like I was riding a normal Arab; not one crippled with arthritis, not an Arab with short, choppy strides but an Arab freely reaching out with its legs, and enjoying the movement. Both Debbie and I were exclaiming "LOOK AT HER", it was soooo incredible. After Mia and I got tired it was back to the urge, urge, urge and back to Mia's regular trot, so I worked more on the two speeds of the walk (regular and slightly extended) and snaking around the jumps, then at the end I asked her for a sitting trot. I had to urge, but she gave me a nice, soft sitting trot on contact with a softly swinging back, and I ended the lesson.

During these incredible moments I was reflecting that Mia would have turned out to be an exceptionally good horse (well, pony, she's 14:1 1/2), if only Debbie had gotten her hands on her as a 3 or 4 year old. I would not have done as good a job as Debbie if I had gotten Mia in her youth, but Mia showed so much potential I think I would have ended up with a VERY good horse. Riding this wonderful new trot I felt impulse, I felt regularity of the strides, I felt her back working properly, and I felt Mia's desire to move. So wonderful.

How many good horses are living as pasture ornaments, or being looked down upon because their riders do not ride very well? How many horses have great potential but are totally ignored because they are the wrong size, color, or they do not move exactly like the judges want? Mia fits all these catagories, so she got roughly trained, roughly treated ("just threw a saddle on her when they wanted to go on a group trail ride"), neglected and ignored until she got dumped at Debbie's stable, a ruined horse.

Friday was not so good. We are trying a new supplement for her arthritis, and I think Debbie halted the hemp powder so we can see if the new supplement helps Mia more. While Mia was not as stiff as before we started the hemp powder (when she felt like she was frozen in place), I was feeling little flinches with each leg as it supported weight, like the little flinches I have when I get a small piece of sand in my shoes, and Mia lost her fluid motion. Mia was very reluctant to move, it was back to urge, urge, urge. So we mostly walked, did her normal trot, and walked some more. I do not know how long we will try the new supplement, but unless it is a slow acting supplement that requires a week to work and Mia shows improvement by next Wednesday, we will probably put her back on the hemp powder (at least I hope so, Debbie owns the horse, she makes the decisions, I just make suggestions.)

Part of the reason that Mia could move into a good trot on Wednesday is that I have been spending the last 18 months or so building her up physically, and training her to react to the aids properly. If I had not put in all this work Mia would not have produced such a good trot no matter how good she felt. Proper basic training takes a long time and during this time I often feel like I am getting nowhere fast. But then comes that absolutely magical moment when everything comes together and the horse starts moving properly with impulse. Indescribable, but so, so good.

For those wonderful 10 minutes I was on a horse that was saying to me "whatever you want to do, I can do it, just show me what you want". I could "see" her capable of doing ANYTHING (with the proper training and conditioning) that I could ever want her to do.

Have a great ride. I did!

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Comment by Jennifer Lamm on June 25, 2010 at 7:47pm
and attitude....... :) you go girl... you were being the girl you suggested I should be, happy light, smiling, fluid, excited, praising Jackie... and look!! besides conditioning she knows you now..... you've spent alot of time with her. I'm so happy for you, I got tears.... :)
Comment by Ashley on June 25, 2010 at 6:20pm
LOL Glad I could help! I'm excited to read it ;)
Comment by Dressage For The Rest Of Us on June 25, 2010 at 6:19pm
Oooh Ashley, you just gave me an idea for my next piece on my blog. Good cuz I was having a bout with writers block! Thank you! And Thank You Jackie too!
Comment by Ashley on June 25, 2010 at 1:35pm
Reading this post, I couldn't help but feel your excitement. It's been almost a year since I have had a chance to ride do to finishing up my last year of school, and the lack of having a horse to ride. But, reading this, I could imagine being there in the arena and experiencing your excitement. I am so glad that you can have moments like this, and be able to reflect on it afterward. I bet there are plenty of horses out there who are just dumped because of minor imperfections that causes them to lose monetary value - however, to people like us who can truly value a horse for what it is really worth, horses like Mia are a Godsend. My first Arab was put down 5 years ago due to crippling arthritis that eventually fused both of her knees in place, but despite her having an essentially terminal ailment, I kept her, and kept her comfortable as long as possible. Just because she wasn't worth anything to anyone else didn't mean that she wasn't worth the world to me. She taught me much more than I've learned from anyone or anything else, and I bet there are tons of horses just like Mia and Cassy who have so much to teach to people who have the patience to listen. Congrats on your great ride.
Comment by Dressage For The Rest Of Us on June 24, 2010 at 6:26pm
I commend you for taking on such a project! Sounds like we've both had our hands full of PTSD horses - and yes I fully believe horses get it. I haven't ridden hunt seat for such a long time it is no longer second nature to me. Plus I didn't ride it all that much "back in the day", just local stuff. Between the western events and dressage I never did good equitation for hunt seat though I rocked in other events where one sits "up". Sounds like you have a plan and are sticking to it well. I can identify with how frustrating it is when things move forward very very slowly. But at least they are moving forward! Take care and keep me posted..... blog for me, baby!
Comment by Jackie Cochran on June 24, 2010 at 2:14pm
I am a Forward Seat rider and I ALWAYS aim to keep my heels down. I was not "wrapping" my leg (not that there is anything wrong with that) as when I talk about putting my heels down I am also turning the sole of my foot out (so a person on the ground can see the sole of my boot.) My leg aids start at the upper calf and roll down to the lower calf, then I release immediately. As best as I can tell I think I give the aid when a hind leg has just landed, at least this is when it takes effect.
I was definitely not more on my seat. I was moving off of the Forward Seat Position for Slow Equitation, which for the actual seat resembles Steinbrecht's dressage "forward" seat, the one where the seat bones ARE NOT weight bearing (crotch seat?) This mare started off with an extremely weak back, and while it is much stronger 18 months later it is still not strong enough to keep a good sitting trot when I let my weight go into my seat bones.
She is an Arab. She also has had a hard life, including two days lost trapped in a blackberry bramble (a previous owner.) I think that she has suffered from PTSD from that incident. I think she was thinking she was dead, even years after that incident. Along with the physical training I have been trying to coax her soul out of whatever pit it fled to when she was trapped. I have been reminding her that she is an ARAB MARE.
For this ride she did not hurt from her arthritis, her "Arabness" was shining out and her Arab desire to move finally won out. I have been physically conditioning her and training her to my system of riding and aids, and on that day it all came together in one of those perfect magical moments. She, an Arab mare, moved like Arab mares move, soulfully.
Podhajsky says that when you do the basic work correctly, the more advanced work should fall into your lap like ripe fruit falling off a tree. I know that a trot departure is not really an advanced movement, but I find that what he says is true for the less advanced work also.
I haven't had a repeat. However I did get a stride and a half of an extended walk last week, she actually started "rolling" into her walk. This mare progresses by very small steps, but then she was in such terrible shape previously and I am amazed that I have managed to help her move better.
Thanks for your comment. It is always good to re-examine what I did when I finally get the result I want!
Comment by Dressage For The Rest Of Us on June 24, 2010 at 12:32pm
What do you think was the main factor she went so well for you? I'm wondering if maybe you dropping your heels made you sit more on your "seat" and also caused both your legs to wrap around her body, all of which causes a horse to go forward. What do you think? Am interested in what caused the forward!

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