Saturday, May 29, 2010

Small Steps Forward


After our lousy ride last Sunday and the dog-bursting-out-of-the-underbrush incident, I was concerned that Sofie would become unmanageable in the yard, particularly right by the neighbor's yard. I had fears that The Place Where We Like To Canter (which had just recently become a place where we could walk or trot nicely in a straight line) would become The Place Where The Dog Burst Through The Underbrush, which would create a whole new training issue, when we had just conquered our old one. And I had other fears, like "What if our training, which seemed to be going so well, is just teaching Sofie that she needs to step up her evasions?" I stayed away from the barn for two days because of excessive heat, and then we returned on Wednesday. The first thing I did was hand the Sofa over to my mom, who took her out in the yard to longe the silliness out of her. We had been free schooling in the indoor to minimize stress on her joints, but obviously if the Sofa has two days off, the Sofa needs to be longed, especially since the Sofa tends to be lazy in the indoor when it's hot.

Sofie didn't seem to be afraid of The Place Where The Dog Burst Through The Underbrush, but she did have about 500 % more energy than she knew what to do with. So she cantered and cantered and kicked out and was nutty for a while, but she didn't attempt to bolt for home (and she was just wearing a halter). With the edge taken off, I took the Sofa in and got her ready to ride.

I rode mostly in the indoor, because occasionally we need to do a "focus ride" and I felt that we especially needed one on this particular day. Sofie seemed to be in a weird mood, and I think I was anticipating badness from her, and so I reacted too much to her minor weirdness at the trot and read waaaaay too much into everything (I even thought she was incredibly inverted, and my mom said she really wasn't). So neither one of us were totally happy, but nothing bad happened and eventually I rode her out into the yard. My goal was just to walk past The Place Where The Dog Burst Through The Underbrush and we accomplished that with no issues at all, on a longish rein. After that I worked a little bit on our ongoing barn sourness issue by trotting her a few steps away from the barn. She wanted to do her signature tight spinny turn back to the barn so I had to use a strong inside rein on her for a moment, but I released her when I got her straightened out and she softened. Then I tried it again and she was better, so we quit for the day.

The next day I returned to the barn and found the Sofa besieged by bugs. Bad, bad bugs that were making her bite at her sides and paw at her face (and yet they failed to make her actually move from her grazing spot, of course). The mom longed her again, and she had less excessive energy than the previous day.

I rode her mostly outside, even though the bugs were bad. She seemed like she might be a little ouchy in her hocks (maybe because she was, um, a maniac on the longeline?) and she did NOT like the bugs, so we dealt with some barn sourness and some baditude. There were times when she was quite good, lovely even, and times when she was pretty bad. But I got her through the times when she wanted to just go back to the barn and be done with it, and we went almost all the way down the trail, trotting on the best footing, and on the way back I trotted her a few strides and she didn't rush. I also rode her partway down the road, and she was quite good, except that at first she kept looking for things to spook at (I just went "Do. Not. Do. That!") and she got fidgety after we passed the first driveway and we hit footing she doesn't like (sand mixed with gravel. I have no idea why she would take issue at that footing. She has rock crunchers for feet now. And she goes out of her way to try to walk on pavement. Nutty horse.) but I kept her going for a bit and then turned her around.

We have NO issues with The Place Where The Dog Burst Through The Underbrush, apparently...she was actually better behaved there than any other place! She did a couple lovely trots through there, relaxed with her head down, reaching for the bit, staying in a nice tempo.

We finished up in the indoor, where after some initial resistance she trotted willingly in both directions, responding to just a touch of my leg. She also did some beautiful halts (that "stopping the motion of my back" thing I learned in my lesson with Sue has worked SO well with the Sofa, better than anything else I've tried. Yay!). When I got off her she was very sweet, and I was reminded of why I put up with her. She's incredibly opinionated, she never hides her feelings, she's sensitive and intelligent and forward and sometimes she uses her powers for evil, not for good. But she's a sweet, personable horse, she's beautiful, and she has so much personality. There's never a dull moment with her, and it's impossible to be bored. And even though she's not always a "sunshine and kittens and rainbows" type horse, I love how she tries for me even when she has ouchy hocks and bad bugs bothering her.

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