Well the focus has been on riding. Ariel has ridden Fred every day this week. She has come a very long way with her skills.
Before riding I have had her take Fred into the round pen and work a bit with him.
Here she was getting Fred to 'Heel' off from her shoulder.
It took a bit, but since he already does this with me, Ariel was able to get him to do it with her.
It helps enable a new rider's confidence when they don't have to touch the equine and the equine mimics their every move while not on a lead line.
Fred has never had any formal training on lunging and since he is about 30+ ish years old, we aren't going to confuse him. He has done such a fine job with Ariel this week.
We started out the week just sitting on Fred and learning to balance and move with the mule.
I can't tell you how many hours we worked with that because I didn't keep track. I just wanted Ariel to learn how to find her seat and feel light and airy on top of Fred.
When we moved outside to a small paddock, she felt confident in her abilities. We keep working on a better leg position for her, but I feel as though I need to try a different saddle.
The stirrup fenders in this one are so stiff, okay for my husband, but not quite what I'd like to see for a new rider.
Taking care of Fred before and after riding is as important as the ride itself.
Learning that you need to stay focused and confident is all about learning.
Well, at least that is my opinion. I am not a trainer, I've just done informal work with 4H kids over the years.
Yesterday we got dressed up for our All Two Mule 4th of July Parade.
I put my camera on a tripod and used a remote with a delay so we could get this shot.
We rode together along our gravel roads but kept the mules on the edges of the hay fields to avoid any traffic if it were to come through.
We never saw a car. And we still had a wonderful time.
After 'the parade' Ariel's folks showed up. We weren't quite ready to stop riding. Ariel didn't want to get off.
[Not a surprise, I didn't want to at her age either. I was always sad when my rides with my cousins ended.]
So we set up some obstacles in the large empty paddock. Hula hoops, balls, a 'bridge', and a black door mat.
We tested our own confidence with this exercise. Ariel learned that if she believed she couldn't get Fred near the balls, then Fred wouldn't do it.
However, I talked to her and said that no matter what people say, a mule can tell what you are thinking and they feel your confidence in them through your body language.
If you see nudging the ball with the hoof as something you can't do, then Fred will believe he can't either.
We ended up playing kickball with our mules. Not a wild game but where we'd take a few turns getting our mules to bump the balls with their hooves.
Ariel and Fred have made a good team. I think this shot says it pretty clearly.
I am pretty impressed with Ariel's focus and attention to detail. She listened all week as we progressed daily with Fred.
Even when Fred gave her a hard time, she was patient and didn't lose her poise.
Her week of learning to ride is ending and I'm pretty sure that this will be the thing she misses most.
After Ariel finished, her brother was given a ride by Grandpa.
He wants to learn to ride too.