I learned two things today: one, my horse notices me and my actions, and two, you can tell when a horse is proud of itself.
Okay, so the first one I re-learned with a twist today.
Katie was riding and Lena was acting up a little, not relaxing into the arena work and giving Katie a little trouble. I was standing up and taking pictures at first, then just watching, arms crossed over my chest, as Lena and Katie rode around the arena. Lena kept looking over at me, often while fighting Katie for the bit or doing some other Lena-dance.
So I sat down, leaned back, and stopped watching.
Lena's head went down and she started behaving better almost immediately. "Huh," I said, and stood up again. Up went the head, faster went the feet. "Huh," I said again, and sat down, this time for good, letting Katie finish her turn in the saddle without me watching, hovering, making suggestions on hand position, or even taking pictures.
Then I rode for a little while, concentrating on my position and soft hands, before we took her out on the road to the orchard and bike trail where we encountered lesson number two of the day.
We got through the orchard fine, though she really doesn't like the dogs barking at her, and went out the bike trail quite a ways. I had been out there before with her and gotten her across - leading, not riding - one bridge that isn't only loud for hooves to stomp on, but it vibrates for some reason. We got her across that bridge, then wandered down an unpaved section until we came to a much longer, though less vibrating, bridge. I led her here, too, with Katie encouraging her from the saddle, and we went about half-way across before we turned around to go back to the barn.
When we got off the bridge and Katie and I were lavishing praise on Lena, I looked up into those big brown eyes and darned if that horse didn't look proud of herself! She even relaxed a little more and settled into our trip back, much less nervous in the orchard and on the road and strutting along like she knew she'd done a great job. Which she did.