Last week when we were out for a walk, Becky asked me when I was going to start riding Little Love again. I told her I didn't know. Which is true. At the moment the other possible answer would be "never", but I guess I'm not ready to say that out loud - yet. But her question made me think. When was I going to ride Little Love again? Was I going to ride her?
I don't know. I guess that depends on her, more than anything else.
I have been working her in hand in the arena a few times a week. We work on alignment (straightness would be another word) stretching down, collection, lateral movements and transitions. I am not a certain "method" to achieve all this, but rather a system the two of us have worked out over time. We only do about 10 minutes at a time, sometimes 15 min if Little Love is highly motivated (and sometimes 1 minute if she isn't :-) Why do I do this? The main reason would be to keep her body correctly aligned and to build up muscle, so she can be healthier and live a longer life. Also, it is interesting, for both her and for me. And it is a change in the routine. I figure we will do it as long as she seems to enjoy it. But, in addition, it builds her up for riding - if I were to ever ride.
Out of curiosity, I put the bitless bridle on today and walked to the arena with Little Love. Then, I climbed onto her bare back and rode her for a whole 4 minutes at the walk and a bit at the trot. I have not ridden her for weeks (or has it been months?) and I have not ridden her at all in the arena since I bought her. Riding her on the trails is one thing, but the arena... she does not have good memories of that place, I am sure (indoor arena's are even worse, and if I never take her to one for the rest of her life, so be it). It felt strange to sit on her.
The first thing I noticed was that once I was on her back, Little Love started to look around and listen to every little noise. She even spooked a few times, yielding away from a little crackle in the bushes. This is her way of mentally and emotionally escaping an unpleasant situation (the rider) by focusing her attention to something else. Sort of like when you are trying to talk to someone and they turn the volume up on the radio and yell "I don't hear you!". Another word for this is dissociation. In any case, it was enough for me to want to get off. So I did. We continued working in hand and Little Love changed back to her focused self, showing me some brilliant canter departures from the walk.
I think we won't be riding in the arena again. And what comes to riding altogether? Only time will tell.