From Yearling to Saddling: A First Timer
My first filly I've trained from birth will turn 1yr on May 28th. I've been so lucky to get a smart, well mannered, calm but with a bit of fire filly who comes from a long line of awesome sires, showmares and broodmares. She isn't the kind of horse I keep to breed, so I'll probably be selling her after she's broken, but it's been a great first time. Also, to note, she is a Tennessee Walker.
She was able to walk on a lead (with buttrope) better than her slightly pushy mother at 3 weeks. We eventually got past the catching problem, and now all she wants to do is put the halter on and go on an adventure. She longes, though the fastest I have gotten her to is a flat walk as she is a bit of a speed demon and wants too much to go faster.
We have so far conquered the following and redo them regularly: Creeks (in hand and ponied), longing, walking over/through/under scary tarps, walking over small jumps, walking a few paces with her eyes covered, standing without being held with her eyes covered, mealtime manners, standing tied for up to 30 minutes, trailering, birds flushing from logs and trees, side pressure and responses, flexing (not too much), letting feet/ears/nose/udder/etc be handled, traffic, cats, dogs, goats, children, elderly, car horns, atv's, clippers, grooming everywhere, "bagging" with feed/grocery/paper bags, leading without a lead or halter, free longing, and I'm sure there are others I'm forgetting.
I've never seen her spook but once, when she stepped over a log and birds flushed, hitting her in the face, stomach and legs, and even then she calmed down pretty fast. Most things she is a little cautious about, but she trusts me enough to do what I ask. Learning the eyes covered thing was actually an accident, I was putting something on her neck to make her mane less wonky and it stuck over her eyes. Next time I put it on, I left it there a little longer. She gets uneasy after about 2 minutes, but to be a yearling and not react I think is pretty awesome. I've handled her since she was about 6 hours old, and she is proof of why I love her dam, one of my best broodmares, so very much.
My question is this, where do we go from here? I'll of course keep repeating what I'm doing, adding new things in and changing, but is there anything else I could do to help her along? I've already introduced a saddle pad, and she sniffed it but didn't blink. At what age do I introduce a saddle without using a girth? With a girth and light pressure? I have a mini children's english (weighs about 6lbs), which I'll probably use until she's big enough to handle a larger one, so I'm set up for that.
Also, any suggestions on what we haven't covered yet?