Thursday, March 11, 2010
A Whole Lot Of Sofie
I am staying at the barn (well, Judy lets me stay in her house, I'm not staying IN the barn or anything like that) right now. I got dropped off later on Wednesday, woke up this morning at 5:30 to help feed, turn horses out and clean stalls, which I'll also be doing tomorrow morning. Then my mom will come and take me back home. Some of her usual barn help is in Vegas, which is why I'm helping out. So I'm seeing a whole lot more of Sofie than I usually do.
Yesterday we free schooled her in the arena, and she ran around, did flying changes, bucked and struck out with her forelegs a bit (once she put her head down as she struck out and nearly whacked herself in the face). I decided to ride her outside and just hack her on the driveway and hopefully ride down the road, since the side of the road had melted out quite a bit and it was now traversable. She was a little anxious at first as we walked around (so was I) but I tried to reassure her and stay relaxed. We couldn't ride very much on the melted-out grass because it was squishy, but we did do a little bit of riding on it and at first she thought she should trot, but she came back to me and we managed to walk a little ways out in the yard on a long rein without trotting. I think I'm just going to have to start slowly, and not try to go waaaaay out in the yard right away. She tends to have a lot of anxiety still about leaving her "safe zone" by the barn, and she worries about what I'm going to ask her to do, but I think she'll get more confident if I just give her things to think about, reassure her, stay mentally good myself, and start slowly. Yesterday was a good start.
After our little session on the driveway and the surrounding area I decided to go ahead and ride her on the road. We were both a little nervous because we hadn't gone out there in months, but apart from doing a bit of a serpentine instead of a straight line, and being a little high-headed, she was perfect. I didn't ride her terribly far down the road, as the melted area started to narrow out, and I didn't want to push her too far away from home when she'd been so good. On the way home it got interesting. There was a guy working on his garage, which was not an issue, but his medium-sized mutt was out with him, and she noticed Sofie and took off yarking. Oh great, I thought. Sofie was tensing up a bit (but still walking!) and I waited for a few seconds to see if the guy was going to call his dog. No, of course he was totally oblivious. Wishing for a tazer, I looked back at the rapidly approaching moron dog and yelled "No! Get back!". And she totally STOPPED, which I seriously didn't think she would do. Of course THEN the guy started calling his dog, and she ignored him (I know it's a she because he called her "Lady") but she didn't come any closer to us. I guess Moron Dog figured out that it wasn't a great idea to run up on a horse's butt. Or maybe she went "Oh my God! It's a talking horse! And it sounds MAD!" But whatever. I was proud of us for being able to handle that so well. I still want a tazer, though.
Last night I helped Judy bring the horses in, and Sofie came in first (she is usually first), trotted up to me, and then started walking around the arena. I think she thought I wanted to free school her or something? But I convinced her that no, she just needed to come in her stall and eat her Kwik pellets and her hay and her various supplements (though she gets most of those in the morning). I had the bright idea to take half her hay away and give it to her just before I went to bed, since she eats too fast. So I went back down there at 9, and sure enough, she'd eaten every scrap of hay. So I surprised her with the rest of her hay and she nickered at me and was very sweet.
Today she had kind of gotten used to me being around all the time so I didn't get any weird looks when I fed her and turned her out. This evening I have a lesson, my first since I got Sofie nearly one year ago. It's not with my first choice trainer, but I have a feeling she may be better than my second choice trainer, who I thought was amazing. But now I have my doubts. It seems as if dressage trainers have an inability to tell when a horse is lame. If I can tell a horse is lame, then it is definitely lame. I watched an upper-level mare being ridden this week, and the only time she looked happy and moved freely was at the end of the lesson when they let her walk on the buckle. The rest of the time she was behind the vertical, swishing her tail, gaping her mouth, and her gaits, especially her canter, looked man-made. Mechanical. Not free. It makes me even more proud of my accomplishments with my little Paint mare.