Monday, May 10, 2010


Sofie has been doing well. Our interactions are always a mixed bag of moments of cooperation, brilliance, baditude and snarkiness. Fortunately her idea of "acting out" doesn't typically escalate past the amusing/annoying level, and I no longer react to her displays of willfulness undersaddle with blind panic. And even though my equitation pretty much looks like crap (as I noticed while walking Sofie past Judy's house), the ability to relax and think clearly is invaluable when dealing with the Sofa.

Riding with Max and Jessie on a nice, warm day with a wind that kept the bugs away, we started out in the outdoor, with predictable results. Sofie does not like the outdoor. I don't know if it reminds her of an arena where she had a bad experience in the past, or if she just doesn't like being ridden in "her" field (the outdoor is part of the mare's turnout space), but she had a crappy look on her face the entire time we rode in there, she walked sloooooowly and trotted even slower (part of that was due to stiffness, I'm sure, but it was also due to resentment). Fortunately, she never acted out, as she has been known to do when ridden in the outdoor, so I considered that a big win, and Max and I took our lazy horses into the yard, where they immediately became perky (of course). Sofa started walking out again, and we had some difficulty getting on the trail (we were thinking about going to The Place Where We Like To Canter and our steering was out) but we enjoyed a nice trail ride.

Coming back from the trail, we trotted back to the barn (bad, I know) and then we had issues with wanting to do our own thing and not wanting to be told what to do. She did a beautiful power trot (well, compared to the slightly off jog she had been choosing to do) toward the barn one time, so I was thrilled that she felt good, but this not listening thing was so not working. So I took Sofie past Judy's house to break the pattern. She thought about trotting as we walked toward The Place Where We Like To Canter, but she listened to my aids and once we hit the aforementioned Place, she actually walked nicely. At the far corner, I asked for a trot, and we trotted diagonally towards Judy's house. She listened as I asked her to turn both ways, and trot a few steps away from the barn. Her trot was better than it had been since her arthritis flared up, even when turning. I was happy that she had listened to me, so I walked her away from the barn, dismounted, and that was it for the day.

After that day, a cold front came in, so on the next ride I stuck to the indoor to avoid biting winds and potential Sofie fireworks. She was quite visibly "off" when we started free schooling her, but worked out of it enough to where I felt I could at least do a light ride. We did lots of walking and a little trotting, and she tried really hard for me and never got nasty, even though she was stiff and probably a little uncomfortable from the cold. I got a little frustrated midway through when I had issues with Sofie falling in tracking lefy, and I inexplicably forgot that she was really trying hard despite her issues. I was upset with myself over that, but worked through it and finished the ride without being unfair to Sofie.

It was still chilly yesterday when I rode. Sofie free schooled well but was bratty during the tacking up process. I knew she would probably be a fireball since it was coldish and she had only gotten out of her stall for 6 hours the previous day due to crappy weather. She walked out boldly and trotted way more forward than she normally does in the indoor. I debated taking her outside, where I knew there might be fireworks, but decided that I wanted to take her out, so I went. I walked her outside, and she immediately drifted over to her new favorite place to trot and canter, started trotting, and then cantered. It was a nice canter, but she was a little strong and she was clearly not listening to me at all. So I decided to take her on the trail, and achieved this with difficulty. I had to get after her several times when she tried to take off (at the trot, but still) and she did NOT want to go down the trail, making it clear that she would prefer to take off towards the barn. I got her onto the trail, but just barely, and I'm hoping this won't become a habit. She started out wiggly on the trail (I think because it's uneven in places, and uneven footing is hard on her now) but improved, and I asked her to trot once we got to the best footing. She always trots nicely on the trail, and the straight-ahead track makes it harder for her to think about turning back to the barn. After turning around at the first turn-around, I tried going down the other fork of the trail, but found that the footing really sucks, so I won't be doing that again.

She walked nicely through The Place Where We Like To Canter, I trotted her a short way and she was fine, but then we started having issues again. If I trotted her away from the barn she turned sharply back toward it. She just had way too much energy, and I couldn't let her use it because she just wasn't listening, and I can't have her getting so out of control. She can't just be throwing in canters and tight turns, it's not good for her hocks. I felt bad about it, not because I thought I was hurting her or anything, but just because it sucks when we can't agree on anything and it feels like I'm always telling her "no". I want us to be a team, and both feel positive about what we're doing, but obviously we need to work on our control a bit and she's not going to like being told what to do because she is a snarky mare and she has a mind of her own. There were some positive aspects of our ride, but we're going to have to work out our issues and that's not going to be a whole lot of fun sometimes. Our issues may not be all that bad, considering how many factors were stacked up in favor of Sofie turning into her favorite alter-ego, Fireball. But I know we have some basic control issues out in the wide-open yard that is our favorite place to ride, and we need to work on them.

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