Luzia Minera. Off the track Thoroughbred mare. Gear Granddaughter to Secretariat and daughter of Aljabr. Formerly an underweight, poorly taken care of mare. Exchanged between over 6 previous owners. Luzia Minera. Finally settling in.
Last time I left you, I had begun riding Luzia a little bit and we had started to work on getting Luzia to recognize the “trot” command while on the lunge line. Since our second training session with Hope at UrbanAcres.Biz, we have been working on a LOT of things.
Luzia and I have been very active in ground work. For the first week or two of lunging and trotting, Luzia played lazy with me. Her walk had no effort and when I would ask for a trot, I could see her muscles flex, but then she would instead ignore me and continue on her slow walk. I made the choice to incorporate a lunge whip. Not as a way to punish her, but instead as an extension of my arm.
The first part of introducing Luzia to the lunge whip was just that – an introduction. I knew that Luzia had a fear of sticks and I did not want to give her reason to fear the whip. We began by touching the whip to the ground on Luzia’s left side and then bringing the whip up SLOWLY and touching it to her back. Back the ground, to her back, ground, back, ground back. As soon as she stopped flinching at the contact, I switched sides and did the same to her right side.
She adjusted to this very quickly and so I began running the whip all over her body and allowing the end of the whip to wrap around her legs and belly. Once she seemed comfortable with this, we began to do our lunging.
I was able to use the whip to push her forward and add a little edge to my “trot” command. I would position the whip behind her rump to increase her speed. As soon as her speed increased, I would take the whip away from her.
She picked up on this type of “pressure and release” system very quickly. If she did not respond quickly to my commands, I put on the “pressure” of having the whip close to her hind. If she obliged to my pressure, I would then “release” by taking the whip away from her area. Luzia is a very quick student!
To mix things up and to help Luzia get over her fear of sticks, I decided it was time to introduce her to walking over wood (from the ground, NOT in the saddle). We started off with a slat from a pallet. It’s very low to the ground, skinny, but still a cause of fear in my Thoroughbred. I walked Luzia around the pallet slat, allowed her to sniff it, and then I stepped over it a few times myself.
Now came time to lead Luzia over the pallet. At first, she kept trying to steer us AROUND the pallet. I kept redirecting her OVER the pallet slat. Luzia finally walked over the slat and after she did it once, she was willing to do it numerous times. We worked on this for about an hour before I felt confident in HER confidence. Over the course of a week, we stepped up our game. I collected larger broken limbs and repeated the same process as we did with the pallet slat. After she got used to real logs, I created small obstacles that required her to step over one log, take a few steps forward, and then start over the next log. We had such wonderful success!
Working with Luzia on maneuvering around scary logs was a great way to break up our routine of lunging and to begin desensitizing her to weird nature things. I also think it helps keep her from getting bored with our work.
Up until our last training session with Hope (just last Tuesday), I had neglected in riding Luzia. Why? Despite all our training and working together, I had begun to develop a fear of Luzia. She still tossed her head, though not nearly as often. Her head tossing from in the saddle began to look like she was about to rear. She probably wasn’t going to, but I kept convincing myself that she was going to rear and that I was going to fall. What was worse is that I told myself that it wouldn’t be a soft fall. I would land wrong and be crushed. All it would take was once and I’d never ride again. Mentally, I went into a very dark place. I loved Luzia, but I also developed a bad fear of her and I felt guilty for it. Anytime my husband would ask “Are you going to ride Luzia today?….Why not?” I felt like a failure. So, I rode her in her pen just a couple times and then began to feel like a coward for not riding in the pastures. It was bad.
When Hope came over, I told her about that a bit. Hope was very understanding and assured me that riding Luzia in her pen was not a failure. I had to do what was comfortable to me. And honestly, that was all I needed. I needed permission from an experienced horse rider to be a little bit scared. Only a few days after Hope said that, I found myself putting a saddle on Luzia and getting ready to ride. Yes, we rode in her pen. Yes, I was nervous. But everything went so well. Luzia wasn’t tossing her head. I wasn’t worried about falling. And so for the first time since November 2012, I trotted Luzia. It felt amazing and the rush of energy was absolutely intoxicating. Luzia wasn’t quite as easy to control at a trot, but I still felt safe inside our pen. She tossed her head a few times, but I wasn’t as scared as before. I felt ten feet tall.
And that’s when I conquered my fear of Luzia. More and more of our work is going to be in the saddle and we will begin to walk over pallet slats and logs while I’m on Luzia. It will be like starting over in some ways, but we will still be moving forward. I can’t wait to see where we are at next month and I hope you will continue to follow Luzia and I on our journey.