Friday, January 22, 2010

The Energizer Sofie

We're still having gorgeous weather up here. The weatherman says that winter is coming back next week, but I REFUSE TO BELIEVE HIM. HE IS WRONG, THE MAN IS WRONG.

On Tuesday, we went out just to do groundwork and a little grooming, since the weather was supposed to be better on Wednesday. We free-schooled her in the arena and she was an absolute maniac, galloping (well, more like hand galloping), snaking her head, doing crazy spins and bucking. Apparently she is getting in shape, I thought. What have I done? We worked her until she stopped acting like she wanted to trample/eat us, then groomed her a little. She was kind of surly and a little sore (gee, I wonder why?), but when I turned her back out she just kind of stood there, mindblown, like "That's IT? We're not going to go play in the snow?" So I scratched and petted her for a bit before she decided to finally walk off.

The next day Sofie was willing to be caught, and pretty cheerful about it. She was very calm standing in the aisle, so we didn't longe or free school or anything, figuring I could have a longer ride if we didn't "take the edge off". We lowered the bit one hole since she had been chewing on the bit lately (like, you could hear her teeth making contact with the bit) and it seemed to be a little high in her mouth (perhaps because her head is fuzzier than it used to be...we've had to let her halter out two holes since winter hit). Sofie doesn't like the bit too low in her mouth, but this adjustment seems to be "just right" for Miss Fuzzy Head.

Out into the snow we went. We walked around for a bit, and my mom took pictures (I'll be posting those in the next couple weeks, most likely). Then she said "Ask her to trot away from the barn."
I was reluctant to do so at first, because I didn't have my whip, but then I thought, sure, why not? And she trotted happily, without balking or being pissy! And then she cantered. Away from the barn. I was a bit unnerved by the change in pace, but then I realized that it was actually a very good thing, and that she hadn't kicked out or anything. So I decided to walk her to The Place Where We Like To Canter, have her trot, and see what happened.

We trotted a few strides, and I could feel her starting to think about cantering, so I sat the trot (rather badly, but she was undeterred), and she broke into a canter. The snow was pretty deep, so her canter was HUGE. Her gaits are so magnified in the snow, it feels like I'm riding a Warmblood instead of a little Paint horse. Her canter, especially, was AWESOME. And it was surprisingly easy to sit, so her back must have been up, too. So we just had mad fun cantering through the snow, and I brought her back to a trot before we turned toward the barn. I think we walked a bit after that, then I asked her to trot away from the barn. She did it, but she was incredibly wiggly, drifting left, right, left, right. She really does not "get" straightness, especially away from the barn. Ah well.

Then she decided to canter, which would've turned out very well except that I let my outside rein get loose, so she started drifting left. I tried to keep her turning right, but the outside "door" was wide open, and Sofie is built like a cutting horse. So she made a neat little ten meter turn (on a hill) and ended up facing the barn again. So I brought her down to a trot to maintain some semblance of control. I really need to have a solid outside rein at all times with her, because it's easy for her to turn whatever way she wants if I leave a "door" open.

By then she was getting a little hyper, and she was a little anxious about leaving the barn area for whatever reason, so I decided that instead of doing more yard work (and probably getting her more hyped up), I would take her on the trail and get her to relax. I also figured that if she had that much energy, we might as well plow through snowdrifts. At first she was a little nervous, but soon she relaxed and we had a nice trail ride. We did a little trotting on the trail, and went all the way to the end. The snow was only really deep in a few places.

Coming back from the trail, we went down the one "long side" of the yard, tracking left. She has been bulging into my left leg less and less, and she did beautifully this time. She wasn't trying to turn toward the barn prematurely, she just went straight down the "long side". I was really happy with this.

I decided to check in with my mom in the front yard, so I halted Sofie. My mom came up, still holding the dressage whip (which I, uh, hadn't needed). We were just talking and petting Sofie, who was standing relaxed. Then, apparently for no reason, she jerked her head away from my mom like she'd smacked her on the nose. Whenever my mom made a move to pet her, she jerked away again and stared at her distrustfully. Suddenly I realized that Sofie could see her reflection in the shiny, silver cap on the whip. She was just standing there, half asleep, when all of a sudden she looked at the dressage whip and went "OMG THERE'S A HORSE IN THAT WHIP!" I about died laughing, and my mom took the whip away and we petted Sofie (thereby rewarding her for spooking and confirming her fears...brilliant idea, I know).

Finally I walked her back to the mounting/dismounting place, doing some turns and circles on the way. I ended up riding 45 minutes, and I was happy to quit then since she had cantered willingly, without kicking out, AND gone down the long side without going "Are we turning now? Now? How about now?" She barely even got sweaty. When she's feeling good, she is the Energizer Sofie...she can go all day long, and fast.

She had not forgotten the horse-trapped-in-dressage-whip incident...when my mom came through the barn door with the whip, she stared at her, like "Don't you come near me with that thing." This is unfortunate, because my other dressage whip is not as long or nice as the horse-eating one. I don't usually need a whip, but I do occasionally. So I guess I'll have to put some duct tape on this one, or something. That's always an elegant look.

The only downer of Wednesday was that I discovered my left riding boot is splitting. I am very attached to my boots; they were my first pair of "real" riding boots (previously, I wore paddock-boot-looking shoes from the thrift store, or rubber riding boots). They are synthetic, so they don't need to be mollycoddled (cleaned), they were only 70 bucks, they fit great, and they looked really good. As of now, the split is a superficial wound, but my mom thinks that they are not long for this world. I am more optimistic (in denial).

I'm going back out today to hopefully have another great ride. Full report coming soon to this blog!

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