Saturday, October 31, 2009

Skipping Ahead!

Before I go on with the Saga of Sofie, I must skip ahead to the present because I have had some wonderful rides lately, and had a particularly excellent one yesterday. I also have some current photos of us riding around the barn owner's rather picturesque yard (probably the last good photos you will see for quite some time, as our confinement to the indoor arena is imminent...say it isn't so!).


I know this picture is already on the sidebar, but I adore it, so I'm double-posting it. I'm allowed. A lot of work went into the making of this picture!

The last couple of months have been dedicated to slowly building Sofie's fitness and putting muscle where it belongs (on the whole topline, not the underside of the neck!). We fixed her feet back in July (more on that in the next post), and I was given the "all clear" to ride. "You can't ride her too much," my wonderful barefoot trimmer told me. Well...apparently I did ride her too much.

At first, everything was great. Sofie was thrilled with her new feet, I was thrilled with my new horse, and I had four or five marvelous rides of trotting and cantering all over the yard with its slopes and hills. I rode on our limited trails, and Sofie eagerly peered into the woods at every turn, and occasionally ran my knee into a tree while attempting to blaze a new trail.

Then Sofie turned cranky, and began to really resent being asked to go forward. Her ears were always back, and she would swing her head around like she wanted to bite me in the leg. I could get her to do stuff, but something was not right. There had to be a reason for my previously willing and enthusiastic horse to suddenly be resistant and bitchy. So I stopped riding her, and she went on the longeline to build some fitness without the weight of a rider. Gradually we realized that her topline pretty much sucked, and all that trotting and cantering on little hills had probably been too much for her atrophied muscles.

I started riding her again for ten or fifteen minutes, mainly at a walk. I began to figure out how to minimize the crabbiness (look up and plan ahead, give her something interesting to do, ask for the trot when you're riding toward the barn, not away from it, etc.). Lately I have had almost zero crabbiness, and she's been a lot of fun to ride. I think she's enjoying the rides, too, or at least the hand-grazing that happens afterward. She has almost no grass left in her pasture, so when I take her back and turn her out, she's been hanging out with me for a few minutes, like "Are you leaving already? But I was having fun!"

Yesterday I wasn't sure if I was going to ride outside. The wind was whipping like crazy, and someone was also target-practicing. Now, Sofie does not mind wind or gunfire, and she practically fell asleep after a few minutes in the indoor arena. I was getting major "I am so bored I could fall over and die" vibes from her, so I felt confident that she would not run away with me or spook violently or anything, and I took her outside. She never spooked as the wind blew crazily through the yard, and she didn't even care about the line of T-posts laid out to be put in the ground for snow fence. We did serpentines through the T-posts (a great visual aid for turning), had a lovely, long canter through the yard (at this point in the rehab process, Sofie decides if she wants to canter), trotted around a bunch and ended up riding for almost an hour. Our "long" rides have been around 40 minutes lately, so that was an improvement!

I was so happy with my horse, and with myself for being able to figure out how best to work with her without a trainer constantly instructing me. I have a fear of working on my own, without my mom around as a ground person, but lately I've been riding around without much input from her, so maybe I can eventually put that fear to rest.

And now....PICTURE TIME!

(Just walk pictures this time, as our camera was being too impossibly slow for my mom to take any trot or canter pictures. But Sofie has a nice walk.)


Check out that reach! Pretty good for a little Paint mare! And what is that thing on the upper part of her neck? Could that be muscle? In the right place?


I am an awful sloucher. Please forgive me. It's an ongoing problem. I fixed it earlier this year, but then I got distracted by my horse trying to bite me while I was riding.


SOFIE! You blinked! And I look like a sick person (and I WAS sick that day...). Ah well, the fall colors are pretty.


Me: Sofie. We are not going back to the barn right now. Please. Turn. This. Way.

Sofie: I might steer better if you weren't looking down at my neck. Just a thought.


Her eye looks kind of demented in this one. Not sure why. Perhaps it's because I'm slouching terribly. How attractive. Nice scenery, though.


Walking by the barn owner's house. Sofie is looking in the window to see how cute she is, and I'm looking to see what an ugly sloucher I am.

Hope you enjoyed the pictures! Next post will be all about the disasters that used to be Sofie's feet.


  1. A good tip for slouching: get a regular sized riding crop pick up both reins and get someone to slide it between the bends in your arm and your back making you sit up strait.

    It seems your stirrups are a little high. Lengthen them so they hit just at your ankle bone. Or try the stirrup bar to the armpit. Do up your stirrups and when the proper flatwork length the bottom of the stirrup iron should hit you just in the armpit with your arm extended. That should help because it appears you are perching in the saddle which will put your balance off and make you want to learn forward. You can't sit on your seat bones if you are leaning ;) hope I could help.

  2. I really just have to remind myself to sit up straight and be disciplined about it. I also need my mom to scream at me more, but she's been refraining from doing that as she was more interested in me having fun with my horse (I tend to be extremely self-critical, to the point where it ruins my enjoyment of things).

    I was thinking of lengthening my stirrups a bit, as they do feel a tiny bit cramped. In the past when I've lengthened them, my legs have gone way too far back, causing me to pitch forward, which is why I've kept them at this length. I really need to do stuff without stirrups, but my saddle is not the most supportive thing in the world, so I've been avoiding that.

    Thanks for your suggestions. I don't have a trainer right now, so it's easy to slip into old (and new) bad habits.