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Go smooth

Riding with Raiku has been fairly OK. She stands still while I mount, and most of the time we can stop and continue without touching the reins. Leaving the yard has been the most problematic part.

Usually I go together with both of the horses, letting Velmu roam free. Next to my house there are forest trails seldomly used by anyone else, so I feel safe with two horses - altough I know that I really have no control over Velmu when he has no lead rope attached to his halter. Well, but when we are about to leave the yard, Velmu usually stays at the yard, eating hay from a big bale. Raiku accepts to ride away with me, but not too far - then she just stops and refuses to go any furher. I let her think about it, ask her gently to take a step forward, and when she does, I cheer her and jump down - leading her away from the yard. When we keep going, at some point Velmu just runs after us and follows nicely for the rest of the trip.

All the time I'm considering if I'm doing it wrong somehow. Of course I would like it to be so that we can leave the yard smoothly, and easily go riding on the forest trails. And it doesn't bother me if it will take two months or a whole year to get our co-operation work easily. Still, I don't have any strict theory to tell me how to do. I feel that I just have to pay attention to my horse and see how she behaves - if things get better, then we are doing OK. And if things go worse, then I have to adjust my training methods. Sometimes I have to experiment and try out different things.

Couple of weeks ago, when I was riding with Raiku, she again stopped and refused to go forward. I began to doubt myself; maybe I'm unintentionally teaching the horse that she doesn't need to go - that she can stop whenever she feels like that. And if I ask her to go forward, I have to keep on asking until she moves forward - otherwise she will just learn that my cues don't mean anything, that there is no need to listen to me. So I tried to apply pressure, and to grow pressure until she moves forward. Pretty soon I realized that it leads to her fighting back - instead of just standing still she began to whip her tail, step backwards and to stomp feet. Enough for me - I certainly don't want her to try to buck me off, especially when we go without a saddle. I changed my mind, calmed down and waited for the horse to calm down. We stood there for a short while, with no hurry. Then I asked again, without using my legs, with no reins, just with sound and small hand cues. No response. I stopped, and gave her time to think about it. And asked again - she shook her head and went onward. Such a fine horse!

All in all, she is the first horse I'm training by myself, and I'm not completely sure how should I do. But I know that if I doubt myself, the horse has no reason to place her trust in me. So, I have to listen to myself and go with the things I feel sure enough. If I'm going to assure my horse that it is safe and nice to go riding together, in the first place I have to feel that way myself. Safe, calm, sure, open, honest and kind - I believe that horses like that kind of company.

Since that thing went better and better. And the day before yesterday I decided to try to lead Velmu while riding Raiku. So, while holding Velmu's lead rope I mounted Raiku and off we went. Velmu wanted to go to the haybale, but with the rope I was able to ask him to follow us. Which worked well, even tough I was riding without a saddle. But to my surprise it really didn't affect the way Raiku was unwilling to leave the yard. All the time we had Velmu following us closely, and yet Raiku stopped halfway in the yard. I had to ask her couple of times until she went on. We didn't go far, as I didn't want to risk running into problems. And after we returned, I once again had to re-think my training methods. I had assumed that Raiku doesn't want to leave the yard without Velmu. But clearly that was not the case.

Well, to have more time to re-think I decided not to leave the yard for a while. Instead I just went in to the pen where the horses spend their winter-time. I mounted Raiku, rode for a short while inside the pen, got down and gave her little massage. Maybe I'm going to do that for a week or two, to see how it affects. As, of course it might be that riding without a saddle feels slightly uncomfortable for the horse and leaves her skin or muscles sore. Anyhow, it won't be bad if I give her massage more often.

ps. Yup, actually I don't have a proper saddle. A cheap saddle is of no use, and a good saddle costs a lot of money, and it will take me some time to save money for a western saddle of my liking.

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