Since we got out of lab relatively early, and it is pushing 80 degrees outside (pretty much the warmest it's been all summer in consecutive days), I decided to spend a little time working with Sage and the saddle.
Yesterday she showed me that she didn't think the girth was a big deal, even though it makes jingly noises because of the buckles. And she proved me right about being steady as a rock, because she was easy enough to set the saddle on again. We actually got pretty far--she let me put the girth on the right side and flip the girth underneath her belly.
However, remember how she's nervous about her feet? Well, she was consistently unsure about the girth touching them. So we worked on that for a while. She got a bit better, until I decided it was time to pull the girth around to the other side. She was nervous as I was reaching for the girth that I meant to pick up her feet, but she let me rub her belly and pick it up eventually. I was just about to buckle it on the other side when she got nervous again, and I had way too much slack in the rope. She started to walk off kind of sideways, and of course the saddle began to slip. She jumped forward and it fell off.
Let's just say, it hit the dirt a few more times after that, because she became more afraid of it falling off when it got unsteady than it being on her in the first place. Finally, we got back to a point where I wanted to stop with the saddle: I had the girth dangling from the right side and was touching her everywhere with it. In the process, I took off and put on the saddle almost twenty times(not very gently as I'm trying to get her used to feeling it moving).
Then I fashioned a "surcingle" type thing out of the girth and some old stirrup leathers. She was quite obliging and let me "cinch" it up a few times. At that, we started working on things we know: leading, head down, etc. I try to pick up her feet every morning and every evening, too. I'm beginning to see some progress, although it's really the only thing she behaves somewhat irrationally about. We're getting there, though. Now I keep my hand on her leg for 4-5 seconds before letting go, and she's holding it there just a tiny bit less tensely. Overall, things are going pretty well.
Here's a picture of Brandy and Sage having dinner tonight. They certainly are pretty cute.
It's been about a month and a half since we got Sage. It's hard for me to believe how much she will let me do already. She leads anywhere, and her curiosity and excellent mind are just phenomenal. Really, it is extremely unnatural for any horse to accept a saddle on their back and girth around their middle--it's like a predator that just latches on and doesn't let go. Only we can teach our horses to trust us on the fact that a saddle isn't a predator, that it's something a part of normal, every day life. It's catching that trust that's the magical part.