Monday, December 28, 2009

Dashing through the snow (cont.)

Sofie and I pose for the camera after a great ride back in November. Look, everything was And alive. Sigh. Also, note the wither-eating saddle doin' its thing. UGH. So glad that thing is gone.

OMG...this guy on the computer next to mine (I get my internet fix at the library) is playing "Harajuku Girls" so loud that I can clearly hear it through his headphones. Fortunately I happen to like that song.

Um, ANYWAY...back to our regularly scheduled programming. So after I rode around the yard for a bit back on Christmas Eve, I decided to go on the trail again. And as I started out, I got the bright idea that I could ask Sofie for a trot on the trail. WOW, earth-shattering realization, right? Well, the footing is a little uneven on the trail, and there are roots sticking out all over the place due to trees being ripped out by heavy equipment. And I had avoided going faster than a walk on the trail because....bawk, baaaaawk, I'm a bit of a chicken. But anyway. I decided to trot her, and she did great! But it was a bit of a bumpy ride because the trail was so uneven. So I walked her the rest of the way. I managed to stay snow-free until almost the very end of the trail, where there were these stupid low-hanging branches full of snow. So I ducked to avoid them, by butt came out of the saddle, and I got snow all over me anyway. Plus the saddle got snow on it, so for the rest of the ride, I had a wet butt. Oh well. There are worse things than that.

When we turned around at the end of the trail to go home, Sofie started trotting up this little hill, but she responded to a quiet half-halt or two on the outside rein, and came back to a walk. I was all, "Well, wasn't THAT sweet of you, Sofie!" and she was like "Geez, is THAT all it takes to please you? Not getting trotted away with?"

Well, yeah, pretty much.

On the way back I had the bright idea that I could turn her around and trot on a more even stretch of trail. So we had a nice, soft, springy trot through the snow (which wasn't as deep on the trail as in the yard) and then turned around for home again. I think I asked her for the trot again (or "allowed her to trot"...she doesn't take much in the way of motivation when she's outside) and she was very "up", a cute way of saying that your horse is "borderline out of control". Her head came up, and she was all "My goodness, we're TROTTING! And we're heading TOWARD THE BARN!". I went "Oh dear, this was a lapse in judgement on my part" and starting giving her "Hey, hey, pay attention! Yoo-hoo, Sofie! Okay, this isn't cute anymore, WHOA DAMMIT" half halts on the outside rein. She did come back to a walk, and I made myself give her a light rein, and we walked back to the yard in a very forward fashion. Once there, I did one more trot transition (facing AWAY from the barn!) and quite, very pleased with my horse and myself for trying something new.

On Saturday we went out to the barn. It was another nice, "warm" day. We open the barn door, and the horses are in their stalls. WTH? My mom calls the barn owner, who tells her that the woman who cleaned stalls and fed that morning (who happens to be her daughter) said that it was too icy to turn the horses out. NUH-UH. THERE WAS NO ICE, EXCEPT ON THE DRIVEWAY. Too lazy to walk out to the pastures and actually CHECK for ice instead of ASSUMING? Well, yes. (This woman is kind of a "weak link" as far as the barn help is concerned...if the horses have been kept in for a stupid reason, chances are, she is at fault.)

So my mom goes "We'll turn the horses out," since most of them were looking at us like "DUDE, get me out of here!" Sofie trotted out to the pasture slowly, like "Oh, are we going out? That's nice, I suppose." She reserves her Fireball energy for when I ride her.

DUDE, the guy with the headphones is playing "Bad Romance" now. TURN IT UP! Oh man, he turned it down now. WHY?

When we began turning the geldings out, we forgot that there was a specific ORDER of go. Bad, bad us. This mistake resulted in one gelding galloping back and forth in the indoor arena like an idiot, and another gelding standing petrified in the doorway, because he just COULDN'T go out there, that other horse might beat him up! Never mind that it was his best buddy. His fears WERE warranted to some extent, as he is the smallest gelding (closer to bicycle size than horse size) and he does get beat up quite often, or he would if he weren't so fast. So he is a little jumpy.

But eventually we did get the horses turned out, and then we cleaned stalls, since I couldn't really yank Sofie out of the pasture after only a few minutes of turnout. I don't really mind cleaning a barn, especially a different barn from the ones I normally have to clean (like my goat barn). And it made the barn owner very happy. So after the stalls were done, I retrieved Sofie.

After our unexpected time investment, we didn't really have time to longe, and my mom wanted to see how Sofie would do without longeing (easy for HER to say...SHE wasn't about to get on Fireball!). I figured the snow's depth would probably stop her from getting too crazy, so I agreed to forego longeing.

Off we went. The snow was kind of packed where we'd already ridden, so the footing was a little more challenging, but she didn't seem to mind. I worried, though. I also worried about the saddle being crooked (I ride crookedly, and the saddle doesn't quite fit, so it slips to one side a lot). I started trotting her, and when we hit the "Let's canter!" spot in the yard, she went into a canter. She went along nicely for a few strides, then pulled a bit on my hands and kicked up a little behind. I got really scared and pulled her down to a walk, and walked her around for a while while I felt all wobbly-legged and afraid.

Fireball had a ton of energy, so I had to trot her, but it was difficult finding places to trot where she wouldn't canter. So I trotted for short distances in specific places, didn't give Sofie her head, and worried for a while. It's interesting how badly you ride when you're worried/scared/freaking balance goes all to hell, and I always let my outside rein go floppy. So I did some really crappy turns with my outside rein loose and me desperately pulling on the inside rein to turn her.

Finally, while I had her on a crappy circle, Sofie/Fireball/Energizer Bunny decided to canter. It was a VERY nice canter (even I, in my freaking-out haze could sort of tell it was good, and my mom said she'd never seen her do a better canter. I had trouble steering her because of my nonexistent contact on the outside rein, but I sort of laughed after we almost ran into the barn owner's house and started to kind of loosen up after that. I think I did some more trotting, and then decided to go on the trail so I could hopefully have some fun.

By this time I had a better idea of where the best footing was, so I was able to trot her for much longer on the trail. And once we started trotting on the trail I was totally relaxed, I felt like I could actually ride again, and we were both so happy. It was a great way to end what had been a difficult ride for me, and I felt much better about myself. When we got back to the yard I halted her, dismounted, and then she plunged her nose into the snow and started rubbing the foam off her lips. It reminded me of the day I tried her out, when I gave her the reins at the halt and she started eating the snow. I laughed, patted her, and took her back to the barn to get untacked, cooled down and then turned out.

I do wish I would have let her canter more...I'm not sure if she was actually kicking out in protest that first time. I think she might have been just kicking up her heels, since she didn't have her ears pinned, and she didn't break into a trot, to the best of my recollections. However, I didn't have anyone watching at that point, so it's hard to know. At least we had one good canter. And maybe I will get another chance to ride in the snow...

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