All the hard work and patience finally culminated into a bright and shining moment last night.
While Quest was listed being able to W/T/C undersaddle, I wasn't about to take anyone's word for it without checking that the basics were in place before hopping on her without a care in the world. It's not a matter of trust but more making sure there were no gaping holes in her training that would put either of us (and those around us) in serious danger. Trust me, it took a HUGE amount of self-control to keep my feet on the ground several weeks ago when I lunged her for the first time. I dreamed everyday since then about riding that floaty trot and canter.
On Monday after our usual lunging session, I tacked her up in full reglia for the first time- bridle, saddle, and breastplate. In the weeks before, I had been slowly introducing each piece of tack to her and adjusting for fit and observing if anything caused a reaction, initially and on the lunge. No problems so I did the usual "tests" with lateral flexions, giving to pressure. NBD. I bounced the stirrups against her sides and put weight on them, nothing. Repeated everything and each time Quest was great. I was able to end that night sitting in the saddle with my friend A holding the lead. Poor mareface wasn't entirely happy with the bit but was a lady despite it all- I made sure to switch it out with another snaffle I had for next time.
Yesterday, I didn't hope for too much but definitely wanted to see how Quest would do with being ponied and lunged on the line with me on board. Baby steps, right? Groomed, lunged, and tacked- I mounted up and with A holding the lead, we went for a pony ride. It was entirely uneventful (Quest looked politely bored? if I can describe it as that), which was exactly what I wanted. I asked A to lunge us so I could get a feel for her trot, around and around we went posting away. I asked A if she wanted to hop on, so we switched and the supermare gave her a pony ride too. I was already very pleased with her but I couldn't help but wonder how would we do off the lead.
Only one way to find out.
I mounted back up and we set off again. We walked, did turns, direction changes. We trotted, did more turns, direction changes. We halted. We walked. Perfect perfect perfect. I cued for a trot once again to finish the night on, intending to leave cantering for another day when I must have moved my outside heel a bit further back than I wanted to because Quest immediately moved up into the most AMAZINGLY SMOOTH canter and on the correct lead. We took a lap around the indoor, before we switched directions. This time (intentionally) I cued and again smooth canter, correct lead for another lap.
I'm thrilled with how things went last night. Quest never felt rushy or out of control and I was able to ride her with a loose rein using mostly my legs to steer. The changed bit fits her great so far and she went in it happily. The Thorowgood doesn't seem to cause any problems for either of us yet so we might be all set tack-wise for now. And yes to answer the burning question, I DO have video but you all have to hang tight until I get the files from A, sorry haha
We're still going to take things slow, next part is including some handwalking on the rail trail in our weekend sessions until we can't go out any longer. This winter we'll work on introducing trail obstacles and desensitizing. Depending on how that goes, we might be set to do some LSD conditioning by the time spring arrives. I'm probably getting ahead of myself, but it's hard to NOT be excited.
I still can't believe how lucky I got with this mare.