Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sofie's Winter Fun Day

Sunday was awesome. I had so much fun, and Sofie did, too. Our "reprieve from winter" weather was still happening, and Sofie was nice and agreeable when I went to catch her. She didn't run up to me or anything (she's never done that except for once when she was new at the barn and the other two mares were shunning her, and even then she didn't run, she walked) but she sniffed me and let me pet her and then put the halter on, after which I petted her some more to reinforce that being caught is GOOD.

While we were grooming her in the aisle, some people came to throw bales down from the hay loft for the barn owner. No problem, since we weren't planning on using the arena on such a lovely day, anyway. We brought Sofie up to where she could see what was going on, and continued brushing her and getting her ready. I really appreciated her reaction (or non-reaction, really) to all this commotion. Footsteps coming from the hayloft. Bales being thrown down and making huge banging noises, then falling, seemingly out of the sky, onto a blue tarp. Then they were brought past her on a wheelbarrow. Many horses (like the pony I used to lease) would have freaked out. But Sofie merely watched, intensely interested. Occasionally she would streeeeeeeeeeetch her neck out as the hay went by her, hoping to grab a bite (or a bale) for herself. Everyone thought she was quite adorable, of course.

We got her ready, and went out into the yard. After establishing that we do NOT just turn around and go back to the barn, even though that DOES seem like a good idea since we always end up back there anyway, so why not speed things up a wee bit, we went around the yard, working on our little training issues, like Get Off My Left Leg, and Don't Counterbend To The Right While You're At It, and Can We Please Go Straight? She did much better (except for going straight...we can do a nice circle, but when we try to go straight, we do a micro-serpentine), and I was actually able to give her a long rein part of the time without her wheeling around and trying to go back to the barn, or completely meandering. We still have a tendancy to drift to the left, and we still counterbend when we try to correct that, but not as much as before. Progress.

Then we worked on our other training issue (Yes, We Really Can Trot Away From The Barn, And We Will). I trotted her toward the barn in the front yard, where the snow is shallower, then transitioned to the walk, and while she was still thinking about trotting, I turned her away from the barn and asked her to trot. Her transition was great, then in a few strides she figured out that we were going in the wrong direction, and balked a bit. I tapped her with My Little Friend (the dressage whip), and she trotted on after a little hesitation. I will continue to work on this, and sooner or later we should be able to go both ways equally well.

I did a little more trotting in the yard, and then headed out on the trail, since the snow looked like it had melted a bit. The first 20 feet or so were a little deep, but then it got shallower. As soon as I got to a relatively level place, I asked for a trot, and we trotted happily for a bit, then walked as we hit a drift, then trotted again. I didn't get as far on the trail as I would've liked, because a seriously deep drift came out of nowhere, and she struggled a bit to get through it. I could see more things that looked suspiciously like drifts up ahead, so I turned her around. I got a good ways down the trail, though, and any trail riding is better than nothin'. One of the things I like about Sofie is that even on the way home, she is still looking for more trails to go on. She'll look off into the woods, like "I could fit through there." And I'll steer her away, like "Not without breaking my knees, Sofie."

When we reached the yard, she broke into a trot all on her own. I brought her back to a walk and checked with my mom to see whether she had visibly strained herself going through Monster Drift, then decided to walk her back to the front yard since I'd ridden 40 minutes already. But then we reached the Scary Corner. It is not scary in winter, apparently, but it DOES signal to Sofie that we are about to reach The Place Where We Go Fast. Apparently I cantered her in that place a few too many times, because Sofernutter decided she was going to get to the front yard a little faster, and broke into a BIG trot (the snow was pretty deep there, so she had to POWER through it). I was rather surprised at her sudden burst of energy, since she had been perfectly willing to walk through the snow unless told otherwise. But the BIG trot was getting bigger, and I could tell she was thinking "Wheeeeee! Let's canter!"

I decided it was a good idea to pull her down, since I had not asked for a trot (and I definitely had not asked for a canter) and she was supposed to be cooling down at that point, anyway. So I pulled her down with a wee bit o' difficulty, and we walked to the front yard. She was certainly not tired, but we felt she had worked sufficiently hard, so I dismounted and took her into the barn where she got her tack taken off and her lavender cooler put on (she was quite sweaty because it was like 40 degrees outside, and also because she insisted on charging through the snow like a nutty thing). I walked her cool in the arena, and she admired the new pile of loose hay and broken bales, which I let her take a bite from occasionally. Then she got to go back outside in the sun with her friends.

I was very happy that she had such a good time, and that she was obviously feeling better. These "snow workouts" have been so good for her mind and body. She gets so bored in the arena, and poles on the ground don't have the same effect as snow (actually, she hates poles). I'm feeling optimistic about the coming spring, summer and fall. I plan to do a lot of trail riding, which is what she really enjoys the most. I think that will help keep her fresh and willing to humor me when I want to work on transitions, figures, lateral work and all that crazy dressage stuff (some of which we can also do on the trail). I just need to make sure I can consistently stop her, and conquer my irrational fear of riding on pavement, and we'll be all set. To celebrate our day of winter fun and progress, here's a video from back in October showing some of our canter work.

No comments:

Post a Comment