Starting a 21 yr old mare
Back in January, I bought Massy. I absolutely love her, she is an awesome broodmare, babysitter, and all around horse. I had heard when I bought her that it had been 7+ years since she'd been ridden, so I always had it in the back of my mind to ride her eventually. I bought her as a broodmare, and will be breeding her in the fall of this year or spring of next year. She is a gorgeous slightly stocky TWH mare who has a shape better fitting an 8 year old than a 21 yr old. Picture a strawberry roan pony on steroids, and that's what she looks like. An overgrown children's hunter. Perfect health, too, before we go there.
I have been hopping up on her bareback for about a month now. Not meaning to move anywhere, just reacquainting her with the feeling of weight on her back. When I did ask for some movement, I got nothing in return. When I pulled lightly on he reins (right or left) she just let her head be pulled back all the way to my shoe. She does back up, so that's something, and does so with the lightest of touches. Going forward still seems to mystify her, even though I've connected a cluck with forward movement.
I put a saddle on her yesterday, and tried to put a bridle on her. She would have none of the bit, and fought it every second she had it in her mouth like a 2yr old. So I switched to my bitless, and she was cool with that. Saddling up she was better than anyone else in my herd, and stood still perfectly for the few minutes I had to leave her tied. At this point, I thought maybe she would remember a bit better with a saddle on, and that maybe the bit refusal was a product of bad training somewhere along the way. I know she has had some good meaning but not so good for her natural horsemanship thrown at her (see my thread in the Natural Horsemanship forum), so I was expecting a blow up when we started riding.
Getting up on her, it was the same as bareback. She didn't react to my heels, my hands, my legs, but still backed up on command. Not backing up as a way to get away, only when asked.
She doesn't seem to have any hangups, no spooks or anxiety. It doesn't seem like she is just refusing to react, which she does sometimes with other things, she will look back at me like she simply does not know what to do. She moves away from pressure on the ground, responds to clucks for movement, will gait in hand in response to clucks and kisses, etc.
So, my question is this. What good resources are out there to help someone start an older horse? I'm looking to take on the project myself, as I've rebroken about four horses with many years since riding behind them plus abuse for trail and show. My figuring is if I'm going to learn how to start a horse basically from scratch, why not work with the older patient broodmare and not the hyper younger horse?
Any advice from you guys is welcome! Thanks!