Hey ya’ll! Ready for the next Amanda and Athena update?! Well, not only is it pretty exciting, but I get into what made me SO embarrassed to ride!!
You can read about our previous June update HERE!
Oh goodness! July brought forth so much hard (and I mean HARD) work, many happy tears and amazingness (yup, it IS real word!).
(This is me, Athena and my Australian Shepard rescue Groot! He goes with me to the barn just about every day! He is my little partner!)
Athena and I put in lots of saddle time. Sherry starting teaching me how to collect Athena with my hands. It was different for me because in the past my family had always used training forks, but I LOVED this new method! I started work on collecting Athena and getting her show ready. Here is a video from the first week or so!
Sherry had me work on different things and had very specific ques to get Athena to do something. I knew she had a purpose and reason to do it a certain way, but it was HARD. Not only was I learning how to teach Athena and how to get her to do things, but Athena was also learning how to do them. When Athena didn’t do what I asked, it had me question whether I was doing it properly, if she didn’t know it yet, or if she just simply didn’t *want* to do it. Luckily Sherry was so patient and great when I didn’t understand or wasn’t doing something quite right. It was hard, but when Athena and I accomplished something IT FELT SO DANG GOOD. We did it, together and on our own. Man did it feel amazing!
Athena was doing so very good that one day after a lesson I took off the saddle and rode her bareback! AAAHHHH it felt so great! I like to think that she enjoyed it too! Reaching these milestones are pure gold.
(This is just me being silly. You can see Athena was THRILLED! ;D )
I sincerely loved Sherry’s training methods. I didn’t need any tools or gimmicks, just me and my horse. We were kind but firm, patient but persistent, loving but disciplined. Her methods just felt natural and had a lot of horse sense. At first I may have not understood why we did something a certain way, but as the weeks went on things tasks connected and I saw how we were setting up the foundation for one thing so that it may lead to another skill, like the different ways to move your horse using the shoulder or hindquarters, or why a certain leg que was so important. I could feel Athena growing in her skills, and I felt like a better and smarter horsewoman with every lesson.
Confession Time: Although I felt more confident in my skills, I was beating myself up pretty hard. I went from being able to ride without a girth, with no stirrups, at a walk/trot/canter as a kid and teen to not even being able to sit a trot. I felt my balance was off, my seat was off. I felt like I knew what I was doing, but my body couldn’t keep up. I felt so terrible about my equitation. I had become so weak (and to be honest, undisciplined) with my riding since my surgery that I was all over the place.
I was so extremely embarrassed. I was so embarrassed that after a 15 minutes of trotting my body was too tired to hang on. I was embarrassed to be reminded where to keep my legs, or my hands, or to relax. *I* knew better, but my new body didn’t. Sherry was AMAZING and encouraged me every step of the way. She told me that I probably will never ride the same way I used to, but I have to adapt to my new body and strengthen the things I could so that I could ride at the same level I used to. I had to practice and although I knew what to do, I had to retrain my body how to properly ride again.
(Look at that nose! It is just so dang kissable! <3)
I had to relearn how to ride essentially. Getting on from the left side sent sharp pains down my leg so I trained Athena to let me get on from the right. It helped TREMENDOUSLY. My hips are so tight naturally from the injury and surgery, so I have had to do stretches and learn how to relax and move my hips in the saddle. I have had to retrain my legs to relax yet stay underneath me. I had to train my core to balance and stay steady. I went back to my childhood roots and rode one of Sherry’s large ponies around the farm bareback. Once I found my rhythm and equestrian body again, it was a matter of building up my muscles. It was so extremely difficult, but over the weeks I found myself sitting Athena’s trot longer and longer. I found my hands were steadier, my hips more flexible. I knew I had a long way to go to get back to my previous level, but at least I was on the right track to get there.
(I just loooooooove her cute tummy spots!)
Alright, now for the really exciting stuff!!
One day towards the end of the lesson Sherry asked me if I was comfortable to canter Athena.
Sherry started giving me the rundown on what to do. She put Athena on a lunge line and we got her moving into the long trot. I asked for the canter and with encouragement from myself and Sherry, Athena slid into the most amazing canter that I have ever ridden in my life. (Watch the video below!)
After two or three strides I felt tears streaming down my face. I felt so free, alive, calm, relaxed, excited, energetic, and ecstatic. It was smooth, but not too smooth. It was the most perfect canter. It felt like I was flying, like WE were flying. I never felt more connected to her and in sync. As we went round and round, I felt the tears flowing as I smiled and laughed. The world just melted away and it was just me and Athena.
I had so many people telling me that I would never canter her, she would never be ridden and there we were, gliding across the arena. I have cantered hundreds of horses, but for some reason, Athena’s was so magical and amazing. It sounds dramatic and so vain, I know, but even Sherry shed a few tears as she watched us go around. Not once did Athena get hot. Not once did she act like she wanted to buck. It was so effortless and easy.
It was by far the best equestrian experience I had ever had of my life.
We continued our post lesson graze/snuggle time. The day we cantered Athena was extra cuddly. She had to be touching me somehow the entire time! Haha I knew she had a great time cantering too. I never felt more connected to any horse than that moment. It was such a perfect day!
Athena graduated from the training bridle to our own. I was pretty proud! We both worked so hard but we were rewarded with amazing milestones and experiences. My equitation grew, her skills grew, and we both grew stronger. I was SO DANG PROUD of us. I couldn’t believe at all we had accomplished already, and was so excited to see what August would bring us!
Thank you for reading and being so supportive of Athena and I! Stay tuned for next week’s update with Athena!
Read more about our journey together by CLICKING HERE! You can read how I found her, how we overcame an injury that most said she wouldn’t recover from, and how she went from an aggressive and scared rescue to a stunning and loving friend!