This week, Florida was saddled for the first time since arriving. Our first two saddles went well & I thought things were going to continue in that direction to where she would be ready to ride this weekend, especially since she had (hopefully) been ridden in the past. On Thursday, Florida showed me that I spoke too soon & she's got some areas that need work with the saddle.
Florida showed she's not completely confident with the saddle as she had moments where she wanted to buck a bit or tuck her butt & get a bit rushed. I saw a bit more worry on her right side than on her left with popping the stirrups. There were a few times when she wanted to leave me when I would lift the right stirrup. I had also let her do a bit of mental soaking with the saddle at the hitching post while I worked other horses. When I went to begin her second session Thursday evening, she must have forgotten about the saddle & went into a pretty good bucking fit the first few steps away from the hitching post.
I'm not terribly worried about this. I've got a few more desensitizing exercises that I can do with the saddle that will make her more confident before her first rides.
I shoot to have three consistent days in a row before I put those first rides on. If I try to rush things to meet my first ride timeline, it's only going to be to Florida's detriment. I don't want her to have any reason to feel like she should need to buck or bolt out of self-preservation.
Thursday evening, I introduced the stock whip to her. For as much as she gets startled by random little noises around the place, she was nearly unbothered by the cracking of the whip next to her. That was a great sign.
On Friday, I set the video camera up to see if I could capture any of that behavior from the previous day & I was pleased that she had moved beyond the desire to buck. You can still see where she gets a bit nervous, especially on the right side. After her early afternoon session, she stood tied again & came off of the hitching post much better before her unsaddling session.
I've included a link to an album with some videos from Friday's session. You'll see that I start out with a bit of groundwork before saddling.
I wish I had a video of what she was like when I first started working with her to put side by side. I couldn't reach up to tuck hair behind my ear without her skittering away from me in a panic; now that the wheels are really turning mentally, I can stomp & jump & not get much of a reaction (which you'll see me do a bit of to test her in the video). She's almost getting a bit dull in some areas. Truthfully, I don't mind that as those areas are where she would be so overreactive initially.
12-Minute Video Pre-Saddle
Next week, we'll continue to saddle daily & will likely continue with the two sessions per day format if the weather holds. I'll do a bit of Jeffrey's Method (human curry comb) & will likely introduce the flank rope (very soft cotton rope) to teach her to replace a reactive response with a thinking response like backing up to the pressure as we did with Leading by the Hind Feet. The plan will be to put her first rides on the weekend of June 11. Before our rides, I'll also introduce (or reintroduce) the snaffle bit so she's comfortable & responsive in that from the ground.
Next week's update will be posted Friday night/Saturday.