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!