the day Shuga became mine
I met and started riding my equine soulmate 4 years ago; an 8-year-old Arabian mare named Shuga. Both of us being introverts had us clicking almost immediately. She and I got along so well that I brought the kids out to meet her. She was a superstar, practically dragging her nose on the ground so she could make sure she didn't step on the little ones. She was especially careful with my then 18-month-old. I knew after that experience that she was definitely my One.

2 years after meeting her, I was finally able to buy her. Apparently when a lifelong dream finally comes true after years of believing that it won't, your mental capacity is severely reduced. "My Shuga, she's really mine," is about the best I could come up with that first year.

still one of my favorite pictures
She tested my leadership a lot more after I bought her than she ever had before. There was one very difficult period when I wondered if I'd fallen into that "too much horse" trap. I carefully considered how to proceed, and ended up deciding that I'd have similar issues no matter what horse it was. I needed to learn to trust my leadership just as much as I needed my horse to trust in me.

I kept us well within both of our comfort zones for a good while, building up our confidence in each other and our ability to be a team. By our second winter together, we were ready to start getting out of that comfort zone again. I decided to experiment with some winter schooling shows. The shows were for jumping, which I've never been interested in doing. (I like my horse's feet on the ground, thank you very much.) But ground poles were something we could certainly try. Of the three we participated in, we only had one incomplete round.

unicorn horn and TARDIS saddle pad? yes, please
This last year we have mostly toodled around doing whatever. We threw some western riding into the mix, which I learned Shuga was capable of but not entirely comfortable with. We practiced some ground poles and tried a couple cross rails without too much upset for either of us. We played around bareback quite a bit. We gave lots of pony rides. We fit in trail rides as often as possible, went for walks in hand down the road, revisited ground training, hung out reading in her stall while she munched on hay, splurged on some geeky tack, and had a fun photo op session together.

I'm proud of how far we've come, and am excited to see how far we will go.

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