Monday, May 3, 2010

Trying New Things

The last couple of rides have been very good. Sofie is still coping with her stiff right hock, and her ever-present attitude is still very much intact, but we are up and riding again, and figuring out our limitations (and often being pleasantly surprised by what we can do).

On my birthday I watched the Kentucky Derby at Judy's with my BFF and a girl who boards at Judy's barn, and then we brought the horses in. Sofie, Alex (a pinto pony gelding), Jessie (Judy's Appy mare, sometimes ridden by my friend) and Lilly (a QH mare owned by a boarder's mom) got pulled out of their stalls and tortured, I mean, tacked up. Sofie stood calmly, looking around at all the horses getting messed with ("Hey, I'm not the only one!") until I put the saddle on her back, when she started walking out from under it, and promptly stepped on her lead rope, jerking herself with it. Her eyes bugged out a bit, and she stood fine after that, not even reacting to the girth being tightened, except for a sideways glance on the last adjustment, like "Are you SURE that's necessary? Seems like overkill to me."

We all rode in the newly-dragged indoor (Yes! Judy's little yellow tractor is up and running again, and the arena got dragged!). Sofie walked around sloooooowly (it was 7:30 and warm, and she probably would have rather been relaxing in her cool, clean, hay-stocked stall) occasionally gawking at the other horses since we usually ride alone and she doesn't know Lilly and Alex very well (actually, she knows Alex all TOO well, since we got in with the mares once and she had to beat him up). Eventually we trotted (well, jogged) in both directions, and we even turned a corner tracking right without any crabbiness. Then Alex's rider was nice enough to open the gate to The Outside, and my friend and I left the arena.

We walked along the gelding fenceline, looking at Judy putting hay out, and we managed to get to the trail without trying to turn back to the barn or thinking about cantering (the trail entrance is right before The Place Where We Like To Canter, as well as the Scary Corner), so we went down the trail for the first time since the snow melted. Sofie was not happy about the swarms of bugs that swarmed her poor face and ears, but we got through them and also avoided whacking my knee on trees (although we had a few close calls). We handled the iffy footing in some areas (Sofie doesn't put her head down and pick her way through those areas. She speeds up her walk until she's almost trotting and haphazardly bulldozes her way through) but we couldn't get to the end of the trail because there was a freakin' huge branch down. Sofie was ready to go right through it, but I didn't fancy getting whacked in the face, so we did our signature "Oh snap, we gotta turn around, so STOP going forward, Sofie, and turn around" turn. She is excellent at those, even with a bad hock. She did NOT like Jessie getting right up on her butt (for some reason she liked it on the way down the trail, but on the way back it was way offensive) so she pinned her ears at her and my poor friend had to try to hold Jessie back (Jessie has a HUGE walk, and she has no mouth, so that went great).

We walked right through The Place Where We Like To Canter without incident, and I walked her around the front yard for a bit longer, enjoying how relaxed she was. Then we trotted a bit, even trotting up a slight slope. I was really happy with how that ride went because I was really nervous beforehand about riding without my mom around (even though it's not like she constantly instructs me) and riding later than I normally do (since Sofa doesn't necessarily like to be pulled out of her stall and ridden - who would - and the last time I rode after 5 PM it was kind of a disaster). Sofie must have known it was my birthday, because she is rarely that perfect.

On Monday I rode with Max (the BFF) again (this time, she was mounted on Judy's TWH gelding, Gypsy). Sofie was definitely stiff in her right hock, but moved soundly and I didn't see any reason why I couldn't ride if I avoided doing tight turns (which I try to avoid anyway). She was so quiet that my mom asked if I even wanted her to longe her. I said YES emphatically, because I have failed to longe Sofie before on days when she seemed really quiet and paid the price (like the day she decided she wanted to be an eventer, then kicked up her heels and sent me over her head). That would prove to be a prudent decision.

As our ride started, Sofie decided she really liked Gypsy (she actually whinnied at him when Max brought him into the indoor. She NEVER does that, so I wondered for a minute if she was in heat or something. We wandered around the indoor, walking and then trotting (or pacing, in Gypsy's case) then went outside, since Gypsy is notoriously lazy and I assumed he'd be good.

Sofie perked up as we left the indoor. Right off the bat, she moved up to a trot (apparently we have a new place where she likes to make gait changed without consulting her rider, how nice). And then she transitioned effortlessly into a smooth canter. I sat there, a bit surprised but happy. She threw in a little bounce with her hind end, but I wasn't unseated and when I tried easing up on her mouth a little it was not repeated. Then we trotted onto the driveway and I began attempting to resume control. My mom was watching, so I looked at her like "I told you so".

We headed out into the yard and had some technical difficulties when Gypsy didn't want to walk through the partially blown down blaze orange snow fence. Then after he made it through, Sofie promptly saw an invisible and possibly imagainary Something in the distance and spooked at it. Onward we went, and onto the trail we headed, where Gypsy promptly spazzed out. He insisted on looking at everything, which further contributed to his spazziness. Then a couple of the idiot geldings in the gelding field trotted up to the fence. Geldings that are above Gypsy in the pecking order and who probably beat him up on a regular basis. He spazzed, and we wound up turning around. Sofie's opinion of Gypsy was severely tarnished by his silliness (I could tell she was thinking "Hey, dumbass, they're locked in, they can't get you").

After that we rode for a bit longer around the barn area, and Sofie didn't really have on her listening ears. She kind of wanted to do her thing, and I was getting a bit of a weird vibe from her. She was probably just pissed off that I wasn't letting her eat grass, or maybe she was sick of Gypsy, but she kept wanting to trot back to the barn (she cantered once, too, but it was short-lived) and she just didn't want to listen to me all that well. I kind of had to finesse the issue with her a bit, and have her walk away from the barn for a few strides, then let her trot towards it again. I handled it the best way I could and I think I did the right thing, because there's no point in getting into a fight with her. It's not as if we haven't been able to get where we need to go, and we have been able to walk through The Place Where We (Used To) Like to Canter, it's just that now we sometimes have issues in that other spot. I'm sure lots of people would say I'm being too soft with her, but if I were to start jerking on her and going "You WILL do exactly as I say" I think we would get some fireworks going.

But the main thing is that we tried new things (riding at night, riding with other people, cantering again) and it all worked out. So good girl, Sofie, even though you are always odd and you can be bad sometimes, too.

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