I've found that some of my happiest days are the days I ride Francie. I never stop being surprised by how far she has come. She's gone from a size 38 girth that was too big to a size 48 girth that is just about right. She's outgrown her first bridle. And while her growth is still stunted, she has grown some and filled out a lot.
But more than her growing are all the things she has learned. I couldn't even touch her in the beginning. She'd never seen a farrier or a vet or been led around. She'd never felt so much as a saddle pad on her back. She's an old pro now at these sorts of basic skills.
Some of the big things we have worked to accomplish under saddle are: Francie will stand to be mounted. She will walk, trot, and canter (we are still working on leads). She will leg yield or side pass (she is better one direction than the other). She knows how to back (but is sometimes crooked).
For a while, I have been working on having Francie stand still while I lean over to open the arena gate, then back away while I pull it open, then walk through. On the day I took this picture, Francie finally accomplished this in a calm mannered way. So we walked through, and then we walked around some of the open pastures. This was the first time I had ridden her outside the arena. She was a little scared at times, especially when I made her walk around a bonfire Paul had going in one pasture, but she trusted me when I told her it was okay.
Every time I ride, she seems to come a little further. Who knew I could've fallen for a mare (I usually only like geldings - less drama), and a gaited one at that. But Francie has a lot of heart, and I love her for that.