Well, I rode my arab mare today for the first time since my post last week. She did MUCH better. I essentially just sat on her for...like...30 min. I talked to her, scratched her neck, just tried to stay calm and relaxed. I also put a bit on her bridle (I don't know if she's ever had one, she came to me riding in a hackamore). She was anxious about the bit, but settled into it. At first the slightest pressure on the bit (when she'd shake her head, etc...no pressure from me...I kept the reigns slack and totally off her mouth) and she'd back. I rewarded each and every step with lots of "good girls" and scratches/pats on her neck. Once she realized I wasn't going to hurt her mouth she started lowering her head more and more. I just gave her her head, and then gently put pressure to encourage her to lift her head. She gave to the pressure.
When I'd give a little squeeze, she'd turn her head and nudge my foot...which eventually progressed to her putting her mouth on my foot, and then opening her mouth and reaching for my ankle. Not sure exactly what she was doing, but I didn't want to risk a bite so I nudged her nose w/ my boot when she did that and gave her a firm vocal "no" which she responded to. Nothing mean, agressive, or harsh...just firm.
Finally she settled down and started to cautiously wander around the pasture. I rewarded this with LOTS of praise, pats, and scratches. Once walking she would respond VERY well to direct reign cues for turning and stoping.
I honestly believe that when she was taken and "trained" back in January she was manhandled. She didn't know how to walk forward, so the people beat her with a crop (she was returned when they decided they didn't want to buy her after all, and returned home with big welts and sores from a whip/crop). As nervous as she was about the bit, I suspect she had a bit in her mouth and was manhandled...she acted as though she expected me to just haul on her mouth.
Once she started walking around of her own free will, no direction from me (I was just along for the ride so to speak) I guided her towards the gate and dismounted, calling it quits. I rewarded her with lots of hugs, forhead rubs, praises, and some yummy treats.
She's SO skittish about everything right now. She FREAKS every morning about the spray bottle w/ fly spray (okay, when I say freaks I mean, she keeps trying to back up and walk away...no rearing, kicking, or being agressive...just backing up trying to get away). I'm careful to let her see the bottle, smell the bottle, rub her neck/back w/ the bottle and she doesn't react as strongly. She also wouldn't let me NEAR her ears when I got her. She'd been badly ear twitched. Now I can rub her ears and she tollerates it in small doses. So, she's learning to trust me and I'm being very careful not to do anyting to ruin that trust.
She may be half arab, half paint...but she acts and looks full arab. She is SUPER smart and sweet, but I'm having to take things slowly for her. I don't mind this at all.
Does anyone have any advice about how to proceed? We've finally got her taking that step...now what? Should I continue to just get on and sit...letting her decide where/when to go? Maybe ease into a transition of asking her to move, and rewarding any step? I know this is going to be a slow process...but I'm willing to take the time to do right by her. She's sweet and needs to learn that not all humans are going to hurt her under saddle. I think once she learns this, she'll start progressing quickly.