Saturday, December 26, 2009

Dashing through the snow!

Happy Day-After-Christmas to all...and happy Christmas to me, too. December 25 itself was very subdued for me (no presents for me since I now own a horse, except a couple things from friends and relatives, which I opened on the day they arrived in the mail...instant gratification!), but on the 22nd and 24th, Sofie, the weather and the snow conditions conspired to give me a wonderful present. Read on.

On Tuesday, we arrived at the barn and the weather was beautiful. Sunny, absolutely no wind, and temperatures in the high 20s. Gorgeous. It was actually colder in the indoor arena (icebox) than it was outside. So after we let Sofie race around (she doesn't race around when she is turned out, because the SNOW is everywhere and it's so DEEP and it's HARD to run in she has all this crazy maniacal energy built up, and becomes a fireball when let loose in the arena) I decided to ride outside. My mom was rather dubious. "You're probably going to have an interesting ride," she said, glancing at Sofie (aka Fireball).

"Oh, she'll be okay," I said (unconfidently). "She already ran around like a maniac. And she probably won't want to go too fast once she hits the snow."

So I led Sofie outside and mounted up (with difficulty..the mounting block kept wobbling around in the snow). After reminding Miss One Track Mind that no, we do NOT go exactly where you want to go (back to the barn/over by her friends) we headed out. The snow was fluffy, but it was pretty deep (up to her knees in some places) and I relaxed when I realized she was having to work pretty hard just to walk, so Fireball probably wouldn't make an appearance during our ride.

It was definitely a workout for Miss Sofie, but she was having fun. We were both happy to be outside (and not freezing to death was nice!). I walked her all over the yard and did a funny little serpentine, then decided to try her at a trot.

Did I mention that riding in snow is a workout for the horse? Because they can't really go through any decent amount of snow without using their WHOLE body and moving FORWARD. Snow is like nature's cavaletti, except you don't have to worry about the spacing and your horse can't possibly avoid it. IT'S EVERYWHERE. AND they don't really consider it work, because it's so much fun. So you don't get the typical "UGH, this is haaaaard!" response. Instead the horse goes "Wheeeeeeee!" and suddenly you have IMPULSION.

When I asked Miss Sofie for a trot, she trotted without any backward-thinking at all, and she was FORWARD. I was getting bounced way out of the saddle (normally, when posting Sofie's trot, I barely move out of the saddle at all unless I am over-posting). It was FUN. She never went all cranky-pants on me, and we wound up riding for almost an hour (I did some work in the yard, then went partway down the trail). She got a little sweaty on her chest, but not bad.

We realized how much more we pamper Sofie than anyone else ever has when we pulled out the cooler we bought her and started to put it on. She went "WHAT IS THAT?" and got all bug-eyed. We got it on her, though, and she seemed to like it.

On Christmas Eve we returned to the barn. My mom decided to longe Sofie in her cavesson, since she had been such a hellion lately. Fireball did NOT like my mom having control of her nose, and threw her head around a bit as she was trotting around (it's a fleece-lined longeing cavesson without a metal nosepiece, and she's worn it before. Definitely horse abuse, I know!). Then she changed direction at high speed, and had to be corrected for pulling a couple times. But she settled down and did very well on the longe, doing nice transitions, looky pretty, and even stretching her neck down at the canter (which she's never done before).

She was VERY pleasant while I groomed her, and didn't seem to have any "touchy" places. When we put the saddle on and started to girth it up, she got cranky. It's quite possible that the saddle is bothering her (I'm looking into different saddles) but it may just be that her sternum bothers her and she hates being girthed up. We've decided to distract her with hay while we tighten the girth, since if she is distracted by me coming out of the tack room, for example, she doesn't seem to mind the girth being tightened. I'm hoping that if she doesn't get so tense, it won't be as uncomfortable for her.

Then we went around the yard again, walking and occasionally trotting. She got kind of balky when I asked her to trot away from the barn, especially in this one place where she NEVER wants to go forward. Interestingly enough, the place where she never wants to go forward is just before the place where she goes "Wheeeeee! CANTER!". I did not encourage her to canter that time, since she was still in kind of a residual "screw you" mood from the place where she never wants to go forward, and I had a feeling if she cantered just then, she would kick out or do something stupid. So I went "NO, I don't think so" and "TROT ON" and she did.

Other than the balky moments, our trot work was super nice. I had gotten used to the IMPULSION by then, so I didn't get thrown around quite so much. I actually managed to SIT her trot out there, too. And her walk (especially going towards the barn) was incredibly FORWARD.

I'm out of time now (have to go to the barn!) but next chance I get I'll write about our fun on the trail on Christmas Eve, and whatever happens today.

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