I rode out on Saxony for another three hours today. We crossed the bridge of terror again, but we also crossed other kinds of bridges. We did more road riding, going two miles to the barn where Scout boards. We encountered yard dogs, glittering debris in ditches, other horses, oddly-shaped mailboxes, people on bikes, people using leaf blowers, trucks hauling tarp-covered trailers, and who knows what else. Every now and then, Saxony was looky, nothing more. She's not a spooky mare. I'm a spooky rider.
You make the strides you can make. I drove to Sax's barn determined to meet K riding out on my own instead of waiting for her to come hold my hand. I was hamster-wheeling it in my head during the drive and arrived at the barn dry-mouthed. That's what I can do with my anxiety: let it get just too real in its effects even as I know it's unreal in its discourse. I took half a Valium to turn the dial down on myself half a notch. It's strange how a choice like that can convince me - which is why no doctor should ever waste real meds on me. The sugar pill will always work. Still, if I'd had five minutes more to groom and tack Saxony, I might have chickened out and waited for K. Instead, my focus drifted to taking just one chance. I didn't even take Saxony into the ring to warm up. We set off and met K as she left the road, turning north for our barn.
Saxony isn't herd bound, but she does look for the company of other horses. When we arrived at Scout's barn, we had to wait while K switched horses. Saxony called a few times when we were alone. Then, since four of us were going to ride together, she had to be introduced to the horses. I make the stakes too high on every new thing we do. I didn't know how she would behave, but I mostly managed to stay out of the way. Her neck was beautiful as she arched it during her nose-to-nose with Scout. All of that went fine.
Getting to the trail system was uneventful, but I didn't relax into it until we were in the woods. I had to remind myself to take deep breaths and look up. Despite myself, I recognize that Saxony is a good trail horse, she really is. Since this was only our second time out, I can't jump to conclusions, but it seems to me that she's content to bring up the rear. Where possible, I rode beside someone, but it was easy to fall back.
Saxony doesn't understand lengthening of stride or change of tempo. Asked to quicken her walk, she steps into a jog or trot. And though she seems comfortable behind, it changes when horses in front of her move out. She wants to catch up and makes the decision on her own. That caused me to use the reins more strongly than I wanted, bailing out on my seat, but one thing at a time.
We did some trotting, which gave me a chance to feel how fast Saxony can be. Part of that is the difference in her build and breeding. Scout, a Quarter/Paint/Arab cross, is short-backed, compact and fat, but she's what I've been used to (sort of.) Saxony is a hand taller, longer through the back, and half Thoroughbred. She covers ground. It will take me a while to get used to that. On the other hand, I have a much better awareness of her movement than I have ever had with Scout. It's been a weakness of mine as a rider that I struggle to feel the proper diagonal or know which hind leg is swinging forward. I think riding Saxony will help me develop those skills.
Throughout the trail ride, I made a point of walking Saxony over downed branches, etc., wherever possible because she needs lots of work on picking up her feet. She saw something different in one log, though, and launched herself at it like it was a wide oxer, soaring high and wide in a major overjump. I flew up onto her neck, caught by surprise. I don't know why it didn't frighten me, but it absolutely didn't. Instead, I was delighted silly by the power of her body and the scope of her effort.
I am building the curriculum for us. It will be more of the same for me and Saxony. I need to bring her up into herself and she needs to bring me down into my body. I think we can do it; I think we have already begun.