Since our last blog post about Mystery, many fun and exciting developments have been going on with her training with Laura at Poseidon Sport Horses.
A few weeks ago, I took a lesson with Laura and rode Mystery myself! This was a big deal to me, as I had a fall from a green horse in August. Mystery was the first young horse I had ridden since my tumble — and she was just terrific!
Laura schooled me on how to support Mystery in turning and bending under saddle. Just as I described in my post about Mystery’s groundwork, the key was to do some occasional turn on the haunches as we navigated circles together. Mystery is extremely kind and willing — but her shoulders are learning how to loosen up, which is a new way of moving for her.
With Laura coaching us, Mystery and I figured out together how to angle her body so that she could feel her hindquarters begin to flow and track up to her front legs. As we helped her shoulders become more flexible, suddenly Mystery could feel that there was now room for her front legs to stride forward more freely. Which in turn created more room for her hind legs to push into deeper strides — and help her to balance on her hindquarters more (instead of on her front end).
While this all sounds very technical, it made sense to Mystery and me — and we had a terrific ride together. She is a very kind and comfortable horse — and I couldn’t believe I was riding such a young filly so easily! Mystery has a calmness under saddle that is reassuring and pleasant to experience — she is alert, but not nervous at all. This was a huge help for me — I felt relaxed and confident on Mystery. I had been worried that I might tense up or be tight while having flashbacks to my fall from earlier in the year. Thanks to Mystery’s sweet nature (and Laura’s guidance), I enjoyed myself thoroughly — and was reluctant to dismount.
Mystery carries herself as if she is a more seasoned horse. Several times during our ride, I felt her soften and bring her back muscles to my seat. I have only occasionally felt this before on a horse — and he was a classically trained dressage mount. As a four-year-old, there are plenty of things that are new and difficult for Mystery to master — but she approaches each request and aid with poise, intelligence and a sincere work ethic.
Basically, I fell in love with her! I told Laura I shouldn’t ride Mystery again — as I will be much too tempted to adopt her myself.
In Between the Rides
Over the following couple of weeks, Mystery passed several milestones. She and Laura began cantering together — Mystery has a very nice canter, with steady, ground-covering strides. She is very polite about not pulling and is doing her best to learn how to canter smoothly into the corners (which is often hard for young fillies).
Mystery also had her first free jumping session with Laura — and did well! Laura reports that Mystery was very brave to the fences and went over them happily. It was a great suppling exercise for Mystery too, as jumping required her to change her movement so that she could easily push off her hindquarters over the jump. Mystery is leaning almost every day now that her shoulders can be loose, her forelegs can swing forward more and her hind legs can step up and underneath herself — and how all of those things make every step and training exercise so much easier!
There also were some challenges for Mystery. She had lost some weight — most likely due to a combination of being in steady work (Laura works with her 5-6 days per week), a very strict new herd boss in her paddock (who seems to be stealing Mystery’s food), and an encounter with an unpleasant weed earlier in the month (it was tasty but had an extreme laxative effect). Based on Laura’s recommendation, we moved Mystery into a different paddock situation, added lunchtime alfalfa to her diet and had her teeth floated.
Soon Mystery had a session with another rider. Chloe came to ride Mystery — she is an experienced OTTB rider and works often with young horses. I was very interested in watching their ride and seeing how Mystery responded to a new rider.
I hadn’t seen Mystery in about ten days — and I was impressed with how much more balanced and rhythmic her movement was becoming. Often during the ride, her trot strides were showing the start of true cadence. Her hips were beginning to swing more and her hindquarter muscles were taking more of the work with each step. Several times she relaxed her neck and softened into the reins, while licking and chewing.
Chloe and Mystery were a well-matched pair and they rode nicely together (Watch video). Laura explained to Chloe how to help Mystery loosen and shift her shoulders on the tighter turns. Chloe focused on shifting Mystery’s shoulders (rather than turning her head) and riding her from the withers (since everything else follows the withers). With Chloe’s support, Mystery was able to avoid falling in at the shoulder while maintaining the circle and her own rhythm.
Chloe also cantered Mystery and did a good job with helping Mystery keep her pace steady (without dropping down to the trot) around the corners. Mystery really seemed to enjoy the ride and it was fun to watch her and Chloe together.
Mystery also demonstrated her steady nature during the ride. At one point, a very noisy truck rumbled close by the arena just as Mystery and Chloe headed down the middle of it. Mystery barely flicked an ear at the commotion — which caused Laura and Chloe both to joke at how “spooky” she was! It was a nice display of Mystery’s temperament as well as her work ethic — the truck was truly spectacularly loud and would have caused many an older horse to pause and snort.
By the end of that ride, it was clear that Mystery is progressing super well in her training with Laura — she ended the ride relaxed, calm and happy. We all fussed over her and praised her — what a super filly!