Text & photo’s by Jenny Barnes with quotes from Mark Langley
She came in soft and calm. Mark put his saddle on. She took it fine. Progress. Next Mark took the lunge lead away. She was free to move as she pleased. After running around for a bit, she changed her mind and went up to Mark. He put on a bridle over the halter. “The bridle was just for her to get used to, there was no pressure on it because of the halter. Then she followed Mark. “She followed me quite closely, probably because the bridle was something that she wasn’t used to and her uncertainty about it led her to seek me for support.”
Mark wanted to see how she went with him touching the saddle – so in comes pony horse, Henry. She lets him get in close and she lets him move the saddle on her back. This is her ‘bad’ side. She’s standing & is nice and calm. Now let’s try the other, ‘good’ eye….All okay.
The next thing was for Mark to ride beside her. She was now moving with Mark moving beside her, also moving the saddle as they went. Mark kept Henry up to her fast trot, keeping her alongside him in a circle. She didn’t rush too much. You can see how she moves away from him as he is doing it. Wonderful horsemanship to watch.
Whilst the mare is in a frame of mind to accept pressures from everywhere, Mark puts a butt rope on her – for nothing else than for another way of her getting used to a different touch on her whilst she is moving. “It’s important that she gets used to more than one pressure. There will be pressure coming from everywhere when I ride her. I was also working through some of the tension she has her back end.”
After a few minutes, she is standing.
She’s going well, so Mark decides to see how she will go with him jumping up next to her. In the last lesson, she was very spooked by this. But today she stands still and Mark is able to put one foot in the stirrup and stand up on her.
As his feet hit the sand, she leap into a couple of humps. “She stood still for me but she was probably holding her breath, not knowing what to do. As soon as I gave her space she let herself go.” After that though, she went well, but Mark knew she was still tense. He repeats the stepping up, walking her or moving her around in between mounts to release her tension. Normally when he stands in the stirrup he has the horse’s head bent towards him. With her, he is still a little unsure how nippy she might be so he just wants her to look a little.
Her escape route is still there. Mark must have got up and down a dozen times on each side, sometimes getting only his foot in before coming back down again without standing. He is looking for her commitment towards him. If she looks out, cocking her head to the side (as in the next shot), he won’t stand up. It’s too dangerous. She could be off and leaving him in the wrong position in a split second. He tries to waits until her focus is towards him.
“Stepping up on her off side was difficult for her to cope with. Without her confident eye on me, she was uncomfortable. There were moments where she showed quite a bit of aggression. So I finished the lesson not by stepping up, but by finding softness and relieving pressure. I bobbed up and down next to her and every time she relaxed I stepped away.”