Work with the mule was interrupted by cross-country travel, but we still managed several more sessions on the ground this past month.
Now, it was time to move beyond just putting the saddle on the back. It was time to put the rider on the back.
With the help of Steve Peters (who has started several horses), we worked in a small round pen at our temporary digs in Payson. Jolene first got to move around with just the saddle, getting out a few bucks.
I put the rope halter back on her and gave the stirrups a good shake, flopping them against her side and letting her hear the leather skirt slapping against the latigos.
I checked the girth, took a breath, grabbed a bit of mane, put my foot in the stirrup, and pulled myself up. I stood in the left stirrup for a second and rubbed her neck on the right side, letting her see me there, before stepping off.
Jolene, tight and nervous, got a treat and some more rubs.
Next, I stepped up and swung my leg over. I touched her lightly with my legs and she moved out, humped up and tense.
I made sure there was slack in the rope halter line and grabbed the night latch with my right hand. She scooted out and alternated between walking and trotting. I let her go wherever and however she pleased.
After 10 minutes, we eased to a stop.
I got off, gave her a rub. At Steve’s suggestion, I got right back on and off again.
Jolene got more treats and so had lots of induced licking and chewing.
So far, so good.