Maiden is all better today. This morning I listened to her heart and took her temperature before riding and everything was completely normal. Although she did try to threaten me by swinging her butt toward me and making the posture to kick out when I started to take her temperature, but someone I managed to not be dissuaded and got the thermometer in anyway while dodging her butt and pushing her back over at the same time. I was proud of myself because if she had succeeded it would've been twice as hard to take her temperature the next time. And I swear I saw a little word bubble above her head pop up and say "Why did that not work? I was sure that would work! I am befuddled now."
Though she was physically fine her mental state was a little wonky. She was fine on the lunge line and doing very well attempting to stretch and do some lateral bending while working out and she was very sweet afterward and enjoying bathing in my encouragement that she was trying hard. When we started our warm up portion of our ride she was acting when she walked by the outside arena door like she wanted to spook but she was keeping it in check because I was keeping her mind occupied with directions (time to stretch, time to turn this way, keep listening to me not your anxious head, etc). We did a little trotting and she was fine albeit still attempting to be a little distracted.
Then we were heading down the long wall toward the outdoor arena wall and she just skidded to a stop and started hopping off to the side. I said no, go forward and she planted her feet in the ground, flattened her ears and her whole body went rigid. So, not wanting to die because I have a busy weekend ahead of me I tried turning her around to go back to the other side as long as she'd just keep going forward. It took some doing before she'd do that and when she did she took a couple steps then skittered off to the side away from the door. I was getting a little worried because there was an instructor teaching a beginner in the middle of the arena, but I also figured it was Maiden so surely she wouldn't get much more freaked out if I keep her attention.
I asked to go forward again and once again she went a couple steps and skittered off to the side, and then started dancing backward. I quickly told her to move forward and she ignored me and continued to scurry backward and started hopping, trying to rear. I whacked her in the butt as hard as I could with the dressage whip and said, "Walk on!" in my most authoritative voice and she stopped hopping and walked a little ways forward before I stopped her because her ears were straight back, she was breathing heavily and her whole body was simultaneously rigid and shaking and I figured it was time to get off before I got thrown off. So, I got off and walked her around the arena and past the scary outside door and she hopped and tried to jump and acted like a bear was after her for a few minutes. Finally she calmed down and was following me like a normal horse and I thought, "Well, shit, now I have to get back on because if I don't I've just taught her that she can spook really badly and be done working. Damnit!"
So, we walked back over the mounting block and as I was stepping up on it and putting my foot in the stirrup to mount I was fighting against the thought in my head "I am so going to die. I am so going to die." But once I was up on her she was fine as normal. Maybe a little wary but back to the Maiden I know. And we walked around at first and even walked by the scary place at the outdoor arena door and she was fine and ended up trotting around even past the scary place and she was fine. Phwew!
Ah, but scary stuff for me was not over! I agreed to go into work early so I could ride this big draft cross, Jesse who was not actually bought as a lesson horse but as the personal horse of pony school's director's husband. But they were going to use him in some classes I was teaching and the director wanted me to ride him first and get to know him. I was looking forward to that until I got to the camp and fellow teacher Miss T. (who already know Jesse and had ridden him and was going to "brief me" on him) came out of the tack room carrying a bareback pad and his bridle. I asked her why we were riding bareback and she said nobody uses a saddle on him because it's better for his back and one shoulder that is prone to getting stiff from unbalanced riders. I said that was fine but that I hadn't ridden bareback since my accident in January so I was a little worried (ie: when I came off Maiden bareback and got rushed to the E.R. on an backboard in an ambulance and had a broken sacrum and broke the transverse process of my L4). Miss T. said not to worry and I had that moment of debating whether I should piss everyone off and just run away or if I should trust the director and Miss T. that he was safe to ride bareback. After all they're using him for lessons with beginners. How unsafe could he be for a riding instructor with experience riding? Urgh.
So, peer pressure to be good at my job and not totally run away and ditch everyone won out and once again, after kicking at the arena footing and saying "I probably won't break anything falling on this" I stepped up on the mounting block and had to fight the "I'm so going to break something," voice in my head. But once I was up on him, it felt familiar and natural and being a draft he's nice and wide and super comfortable. And as it turns out he is an amazing horse! He's unbelievably sweet and incredibly attentive and has this way about him where it's almost like he's saying to you, "I'll do whatever you ask. I just want to be good. Just tell me what to do and I'll do it!" On top of his sweet, attentive and motivated attitude he also has lovely smooth gaits with these big, fluid strides. You feel like you've got this benevolent giant as your dance partner and nothing bad could ever hurt you as long as he's with you. I was completely in love with him after just fifteen minutes of walking and trotting with him!
I was pretty tired by the end of the day. Not from physical exertion so much as having to face my fears twice in one day! But I also felt really great about it and my confidence is just a little bit higher because of it.