I've done very little trotting with Dani, honestly it's been really hard to get to the point of feeling like I could trot her. I've done some trots in the round pen, then short spurts in the arena but never much concentration on it. Each time I've tried it's a little freaky. She tosses her head and goes into her trot....which is pretty big (or at least feels that way). I don't know if it's fast, short-strided or what but it's gonna take some getting used to. She's also squirrel-y to steer at the trot, but that's probably my fault. She's sensitive and doesn't require much to steer her, I'm tense with the trot so I probably cue her too much...hence the squirrel-y feel.
Yesterday I was riding in the north arena. This one has a little grand stand to the west for viewers to sit during gymkhanas or other activities. When we first got into the arena I longed her to get her in the right frame of mind...she's really good at realizing it's time to work and to soften rather quickly. An owl flew out of the stands and off to a field. Dani glanced but didn't seem too worried. I was distracted and kept glancing to watch him fly off.
Finally we were done with our warm up and I was ready to mount up. I tightened the cinch one last time (been using the western saddle a lot lately). Dani hasn't been ridden in about 2 weeks I would guess. I tried to Sunday but had a hoof chip issue that scared me to my hubby and I forfeit that idea until the farrier could come and take a look at it. Dani was a bit fussy about mounting, doing her backing and/or moving her hindquarters but a swift pull on the reins and a whoa seemed to suffice.
I started by walking her around the arena perimeter and discovered she was just a tad worried about the grandstand. So we walked past that many times, where she was really worried I turned her in small circles each way, yielded her hindquarters etc. Then in a couple more passes she had no issue with it at all. The issue I'm talking about is just a hard stare and snort...no spooking, but I want to prevent that if I can.
After walking around a bit, doing some flexing I decided to trot. The first attempt she turned quickly due to a panicky aid I must have applied. Further on we tried again, and I tried my best to keep my reins calm. I had my hand on the horn at first (gotta love western saddles) but eventually was riding free with light contact.
We did short spurts of trot at each end of the arena, each time felt a little better but each time the shift into trot started with a head toss. I think I'll be able to work on this on the ground this winter. Since it will get dark soon my ability to work her during the week will be limited but my plan is to get one of those light stands people use when painting their house. It will give us enough light for ground work, not sure I'll feel safe enough for riding so I'll be limited to weekends for under-saddle stuff. Anyways I felt accomplished.
I've been scared to death of speed and have needed time to build a solid relationship and foundation with Dani. It's been almost a year of being owned by her, so it seems silly to some that I haven't done much trotting but honestly I haven't been ready yet. I've been so scared since those falls I had before buying her, the fear is deep and I've slowly been working on it. It'd rather take the time and work on fundamentals, concentrating on my seat and hands, getting her softer etc. We have a ways to go but I feel that the trot will continue to improve on both our parts. What a good little mare she was, she could easily have gotten upset at my tension but she just trekked on and was still her sweet self after the ride. I love her.