From 'Trouble' to Trust: Angel's Story - December Update
Updated: Sep 9, 2018
Following on from our last post on 6. November, Angel continues to make great progress in her rehabilitation.
For the last two sessions I have started to reintroduce the mare to the bit. Angel would not allow anyone to touch her mouth, so putting a bridle on - with or without a bit was quite a task. The last time someone attempted to put a bridle on, it took 45 minutes according to Stephanie, Angel's owner. I was quite horrified to hear that. Initially I stripped the bit from the bridle and asked Stephanie to place the bit in some warm water to make it as pleasant an experience for Angel as possible. I then placed the bridle loosely on Angel's head, leaving a head collar underneath to give me extra control if needed. Angel was happy as I adjusted the individual straps of the bridle to her fit. Standing next to Angel, with my left hand gently rested on her nose, I then gently tried to insert one of my fingers into the upper corner of Angel's mouth, where the bit would eventually go. Initially, Angel was throwing her head into the air each time my finger touched her mouth, but I managed to slip a finger into it and as soon as it touched her tongue, she stopped resisting and started to chew. I repeated the process several times until Angel no longer resisted my touch at all.
I then placed the warm bit in my right hand, holding it on the ring, and placing my finger in the corner of Angel's mouth, she started chewing again, which allowed me to gently slide the bit into her mouth and hold it loosely in place on the other side of her mouth with my left hand. This took less than 10 seconds in total! Stephanie couldn't believe her eyes :)
I repeated this a number of times and each time Angel was willing and relaxed. I then attached the bit to the bridle, adjusting the cheek pieces to a comfortable fit for Angel. What a fabulous milestone!
And yesterday, we continued where we'd left off the previous session. Angel accepted the bit willingly and stood very quiet and relaxed as I placed the saddle on her back and tightened the girth. Now fully tacked up, we then took Angel into the arena, and continued our groundwork routine of stretching and bending on both reins in walk and trot. Angel's confidence has grown so much that she is comfortably walking and trotting on a 10 metre circle on both reins. That's a big success in itself - if you're aware of Angel's struggles in the beginning.
I then led the mare to the mounting block and she stood relaxed and patiently on both reins while I was leaning over the saddle and putting weight into the stirrup. With Stephanie on the ground, I then proceeded to fully lay across the saddle and asked Stephanie to lead Angel away from the mounting block, one step at a time. Angel was an angel :)...totally chilled. So we kept walking forward, eventually completing a small circle all the way back to the block, where I dismounted. We repeated this process a couple of times, also leaning over from Angel's right side, without problems.
Back at the block, I then placed my left foot firmly in the stirrup, standing up tall over Angel, which she didn't mind either. I felt confident that Angel was ready for the next step. So I quietly brought my right leg over Angel's back, sitting up and into the saddle slowly and gently. Angel was attentive, but relaxed. I just sat there on board for a few minutes, showering the mare in praise and neck rubs. To be on board was an exhilarating feeling. Angel was totally content with the situation and I decided that this was a good point to call it a day - finishing for everyone on a great, positive, feel-good moment to remember...
I was buzzing for the rest of the day :)
Sorry there's no picture of this exciting moment, but I hope to post one after the next session. So please stay tuned...
Happy horse, happy owners, happy me :)