We didn't start out too well. I put my foot in the stirrup and hauled myself up and she instantly started pushing the gate and getting really light on her front end. She had reared on me before so I didn't take that lightly. I got off and calmed her down. She wanted back to her buddies and she was letting me know it.
I wasn't sure what to do...I didn't want to get back on with her acting the way she was, but I didn't want to give up either, knowing I would have a worse fight on my hands the next time if I did.
So I just took hold of the reins and started walking...away from where she wanted to go. She followed me complacently and we walked all the way to the back of the 35 acre pasture we were in. When we got to the back meadow, I unsnapped one end of the reins and started lunging her. Usually she doesn't really like to lunge, but this time she didn't want to stop. She had a lot of energy and really wanted to get it out, so I let her. I made her lope first one way, then the next and back the other way again. At first, her head was really high and her ears kept flicking back and forth.
After about twenty minutes of this, her head came down and her ears stayed locked on me.
Then I changed it up a bit and started lunging her over a log, so she had to use up some more energy jumping.
By now I was feeling a little better about all of it and started walking her back up to the front of the pasture.
We walked back and forth several times until I felt she was calm enough, then I got on.
I was nervous, but I just walked her about twenty feet from the gate, stopped, and turned around. We did that for about half an hour, getting farther from the gate each time. She still felt pretty hot, but was controllable.
By the end of the ride, I was able to trot her a little and felt pretty pleased with her progress.
I have ridden her out in the open three more times since then and have gained more confidence and control each time. The last time I rode her out there, I was able to canter her freely, with no fear of her bolting or reacting to the control of the reins. She wasn't happy with the slower pace, but did pretty well considering her love for speed. I found a clearing big enough to lope a circle in and I worked her on lead changes and speed control.
It's getting pretty old having to put my brace on each time I want to ride. My next doctor appointment is toward the end of June and I'm hoping I'm healed enough to have it off completely. It's getting way too hot to wear it like that! I'm glad I didn't have to wear it a hundred percent of the time during the summer months!
Something changed in Smoke and I's relationship and for the better. We understand each other better and she is more willing to work with me. I like the change. It's really special to be able to ride a horse that you understand, and that understands you.
When I first started riding her this spring, I wondered if I would ever feel confident enough to compete with her sorting cattle. You have to trust your horse a lot and be very comfortable in the saddle, and I wasn't sure I would ever get enough of my confidence back to do it. But I think I have. I feel really good on her. She's thrown a few little tricks at me these last few rides, but I found that I could handle every one. She's much easier to handle than she was before, much more responsive to my hands and legs. She still gets mad at me, but not for long! She likes me too much. I don't think I've ever been mad at her. Scared yes, frustrated yes, but not mad.
If I had had to gain back my confidence on Bannie, it wouldn't have come so quickly or easily. Bannie undoubtedly loves me, but he still has the strong drive of a band stallion to conquer and rule everyone. After six months off, he would have needed many lessons, lessons that I wasn't prepared to give.
Smoke needed lessons too, but she knew what the limit was and threw in just enough mischief to make me figure out how to handle her, which was exactly what I needed.
A month ago, I did not feel ready to tackle re-training Bannie, but I feel ready now. He has the exact opposite problem as Smoke....she loves to work, he does not. With her, its a matter of figuring out how to slow her down with out causing an explosion, with him, you have to figure out how to get him moving without causing a major showdown. I had him figured out once and I don't think he's changed much beyond getting a little more lazy from time off, but the same old methods should work and I hope to soon be riding him with as much confidence as I am Smoke.