Now back in December I did get on Abby for all of 45 seconds. I had been working with her a little trying to refresh her brain (lounging a little on soft ground, tying her to the wall, brushing, saddling etc.) but had no intention of getting on... but one very very cold and sunny afternoon, I had saddled her up and left her tied up for a while when, as I went to untack and put her away, that saddle just called my name. I tried to resist. But it was just too damn tempting. So I got on. Abs backed a few steps and seemed unsure so I pushed her forward a little. Her first steps were tight and she felt a little locked up so I bent her around and we walked in a circle. I sat down and let go. She stopped. I got off. An impromptu first ride that could barely count as a productive "first" ride back but a success nonetheless. I count it as a half first ride. And so I left off again and waited for those shiny steel shoes.
Jan 14th came around faster than I had anticipated. She was a great for the farrier and stood like a gem for nearly 2 hours. I left her for the night and made a plan to ride the next morning. I barely slept that night I was so excited. I was worried that I would be too jacked up to be on point for that ride but when the time came I felt relaxed and confident. I started by tying her up for 10 minutes and brushing. I then untied and brought my tack to the middle of the arena and took my time saddling. I had done some lounging and saddling over the past month so she was really relaxed about it but what I hadn't done was put a bit in her mouth. I was really surprised, given how relaxed she was about the saddle and responsive to cues on the lounge line that she acted like she had never had a bit in her mouth. She licked and chewed and cranked her mouth open and tried to wiggled it loose. The first few minutes I wasn't concerned but this went on for a good ten minutes! I left the head stall on with no reins and put the halter over. I then put her on the lounge line and asked her to walk for a good 4-5 minutes each direction and then trot 2-3 minutes each direction. She was completely relaxed, moved off and slowed down when asked and had bright eyes and perked ears. I brought to a stop and clipped on some reins. The video says it all. She was happy, guided off my seat, stopped and just acted like it was no big deal. The only thing that I felt was really not there still was her response to the bit. I wanted to keep the ride completely positive and relaxed so just left it alone for the day.
After that ride I really felt like my priority should be getting Abs fit outside of the arena. I cant ask her to do anything or really see how much of those reining maneuvers she still has in there until she is fit enough to not hurt herself. If I stay out of the arena and ride in an environment that doesn't require a lot of guiding or transitions I should be able to get her fit without having to hit on any of her rusty buttons. So the next day I took her for a walk, saddled and in hand, on the dyke with my friend L on Ella (who is very calm and confident). We went about 20 minutes until there was a section where there isn't much at all except the path (about ten feet wide) in front of her and blueberry fields stretching off in the distance. I was actually pretty confident about getting on her there because I knew she wouldn't want to leave Ella and there really is no where to go. I wanted to get on up there is because the path is wide and straight and all I would have to do was sit up there and ask her to move forward, I really wouldn't need to guide at all. So I got on and did just that. And for the next five minutes she happily packed me down the road. I got off and walked her home in hand. It was as easy and simple as that.
Abs on the dyke Thursday morning
Yesterday I took her for another walk in hand with Ella. About ten minutes in I got on and we went for a 2-3 minute trot on the soft section of trail. She was all ears forward and just happy as a clam. I got off and walked her home. Just as simple as that. Over the next few weeks I am going to continue to taking her out on the trail (extending our in saddle time) so I can get her fit without farting around with her face or buttons too much. I am hoping that by the first week of February I can bring her in the arena and see what's still tucked away in her big rusty box of tools. I am feeling very blessed.