Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Long Day in the Arena

It's a three day weekend and we're supposed to have huge storms every day.  Today we woke up to sprinkles and sat around the house for many hours as it continued to rain.  The crops need it, but I'd rather it came on my non-ride days.

Eventually we saw the storm ending and went out to see the guys (and girl, gotta get used to that now).  The storm was not quite done, though, and we ended up getting fairly wet.  The horses were not to thrilled, either.  We saw everyone but Bear and Steen lined up against the windblock.  Suffering.  Bear and Steen were on the bale.  Laredo had the choice spot on the end, so Robin went up and grabbed him.  That opened things up a little and I moved Whisper off and snuck in to get Zoey.  She wasn't too happy about it, but she was also kind of stuck in a corner, so she gave up and came with me.

Inside she was really jumpy.  I know it was just the cold and wet, but it brought out a lot of energetic anxiety that we've worked to minimize over the last couple of weeks.  When she was stepping away from me and the towel and not allowing me to pick up her feet I wasn't sure if we'd ride or not.  I decided to just take things one step at a time, and I'd spend as much time on each step as we needed.

In the arena we did a lot of groundwork.  I focused on keeping her listening but keeping her calm.  We worked on following my feel and energy.  She had a lot of energy, so she wanted to trot a lot, but we would take that moment to work on a smooth disengage.  Then I'd ask if she was ready to follow my energy again.  For a while the answer was no, but after some time things improved.  We didn't just drill on that, though, we mixed in some backing, moving the front end over, and lots of face pets.  She was not a fan of the face pets, so I had to tell her I was going to touch her face and 'reward' her even though she wasn't thrilled about it.  Sometimes you have to deal with the loving.

From there we moved to accepting the saddle pad and moving off it.  This was so productive that when I grabbed the saddle she was very ready for it.  I swung it up and Robin said she looked great.  I know she moved one hind foot (I think just to square up a little), so I resaddled one more time and it was perfect.

Taking the bit, yeah, not so perfect.  We got right back to the tense head we had earlier.  Something about the cold and wet made her pretty defensive of her face and head.  I had to get a lot of pets in there, but she was not feeling it.  This was the only point I was starting to lose my patience, but I hung in there, and eventually I had her head lowered and turned towards me as she accepted the bit.  She takes the bit great, it is just getting her head into the accepting position that can take time.

When I climbed on she was stiff and distracted, so we just worked on all our usual things: flexing, walking circles, moving the hind, serpentines, teardrop turns on the rail, backing.  At some point, she just started getting with me.  I wish I could remember when it happened, but I don't.  I just remember thinking, wow, we're having a really good ride right now.  It felt good, since an hour before I wasn't sure if we even would ride.


We spent some time trotting in circles and then moving out along the rail a little more.  She was happy and balanced and only troubled a few times during right turns that I struggled to set up properly.  Towards the end of the ride we decided to really move out at the trot and see if she was interested in offering some lope strides.  We went left first and got a couple.  When we tried a little more we actually got quite a few strides in a row.  Robin said she looked like she was really having fun at this point.

Going right it was not quite as good, so we spent a little more time just trotting and trying to stay balanced.  Then I started feeling her head and front end come up a little bit.  I wasn't able to get multiple strides in a row, just one or two, but it is something to build on for next time.

During our last ride I couldn't back her up to save my life.  Today, completely different.  We were soft and energetic backing up.  I was even able to back some pretty nice circles on her and then transition into moving the front end around.  She was so willing through all of it.

When I hopped off she remembered that she actually likes face pets, so I gave her a lot more while we untacked and hung out.

By this time it had stopped raining.  Typical Bear had somehow managed to almost completely dry himself off.  I don't know how he does it.  We took him into the airlock for his vitamins.  I'm pleased to say he's still eating them.  Perhaps he can tell he is getting some much needed nutrients.

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