Sienna did so well despite my initial fears. The biggest message I got from wherever these messages come from is that at this stage she is not to be ridden. I rode her bareback at the clinic however Mel made me aware of how the saddle (when correctly fitted) is better for the horse when perhaps the rider is not in perfect balance which I am not yet. It was my intention to start Sienna to saddle on the final morning of the clinic but I got a clear message that this was not my way forward with this horse. Sienna affirmed that for me in a deep and beautiful way. I could never have imagined our connection getting even deeper than it already was however it has in a profound way.
On returning home I started instead riding Kiowa to learn the new skills that Mel had taught me. I always like to give my horses a choice before riding and will saddle them without a halter in an open paddock. That way I feel they are totally free to express their desire to be ridden or not. I have taken Kiowa out 3 times now and each time she has come up to me to be saddled. She seems to thoroughly enjoy our outings and each time I feel I am getting to know her better. I feel a slight barrier in her that we have not been able to pass as yet. It comes on an energetic level not on a perceptable one. She seems to be holding herself back from connecting fully for fear of loss. She is an absolute angel to do anything with and for a horse that has had limited ridden experience she is a true delight. She has such a different way about her and although over the past 6 months she has hidden the childlike spark she showed so openly in the past, she is still her calm, gentle self in all dealings with me. I think that the guard she has built may have been caused by me having to move so often in the past 18 months. During that time she was moved 4 times into and out of different herds due to restrictions I had in finding a paddock for my horses to stay together. Seeing the impact this has had on her makes me even more determined to find some way to one day own my own property so my horses never have to experience that uncertainty again.
So back to Sienna, I had a moment after the clinic where I doubted the message I thought I had received. Sienna was quiet and willing for the most part in all our lessons together and she seemed to enjoy my company as much as I do hers. So I asked her to come into the round yard with me at liberty which she did. I showed her the saddle and she looked at it and looked at me. I put it on her and she stood nicely at liberty whilst I did the girth up loosely. I asked her to move with the saddle on. She showed a little unsureness at the new feeling however she still moved out as I asked. Then an interesting thing happened. The other 3 horses came running over to the yard, Scout and Kiowa looking very upset. They were putting their heads through the rails then tapping on the gate trying to get in. It was at that same moment I felt a strong feeling that this was just so wrong. I was almost in tears as I asked Sienna to me and removed the saddle and stood with her quietly for sometime. I have had her in my life for over 3 years now and always when people see what we are doing together and ask why she isn't started to saddle, I explain that she has not suggested that she is ready for that. This may change in the future but for now it seems she still isn't and may never be and that is more than fine with me. I do not have any of these horses in my life for the sole purpose of riding or what they can do for me. They are simply my family and my world. I take great joy in each minute I spend with them. I don't ride regularly as it has become secondary to the incredible pleasure provided just by closely living side by side with these animals. This is not to say that I am against riding, I am not at all and am enjoying the newfound experiences I am having whilst riding Kiowa. It is more to say that there is so much more to enjoy than just riding.
I was laughing with delight the other day as I walked out into the paddock after a storm and asked the mares to come walking with me. We went up the mountain, Sienna by my side at liberty while the other mares followed close behind. When we got to the top paddock I started running through the trees and up the next hill. The girls all bucked and snorted and played around me. When I stopped, they stopped and had a nibble of the new grass coming through. When I walked they followed. For me there is no better experience that I could imagine than having these mares choose to welcome me into their herd.
It has been a wonderful year filled with learning and welcoming Scout and Lacey into our little herd. Yesterday I walked with the mares around the front paddock. I started pulling weeds as I slowly walked around the track I have put in for them. I was doing this for about an hour and noticed the whole time Sienna watched me, ears pricked, mesmerised. Everytime I looked up at her she was watching me. It seems perhaps she is as intrigued by me as I am by her. Eventually she came very close and put her head to my back breathing deeply. How truly blessed I am to share these times with them.
I would like to thank everyone who has taken the time this year to follow my journey with my horses. I am very grateful for your comments and support. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas filled with love and laughter.