Friday, June 4, 2010

Back in the field/Stuck in the indoor

On Wednesday I went to the barn around 5:30 and assisted Judy with bringing horses in so I could ride Sofie in the Big Field normally occupied by the geldings. Sofie was happy to go in her stall, but when I released her and she realized there was no grain in her feeder and only half a flake of hay in the corner, her expression turned tragic ("Where is all my food?!").

It was a nice, cool evening, and I worried that Sofie's alter-ego, Fireball, might make an appearance out in the Big Field, so I free schooled her for a good, long time in one of the empty paddocks. She had a good time, grabbing bites of grass, throwing in lovely canter transitions and spazzing because one of the Pony Club moms was setting up jumps in the outdoor arena.

Back in the aisle, we worked on getting ready to ride and not eating the garbage can (that was HARD, especially when Judy brought out the OTHER garbage can OMG). Yeah, she's not afraid of garbage, she just has, like, a fascination with it.

She watched intently as Alex, a pinto pony roughly the height and width of a bicycle was ridden around in the outdoor. There was quite a bit of activity going on that night, but she only got a bit high headed watching everything. Warming up in the indoor, she was distractable, listening to the sounds of Judy's grandkids running around and the Pony Club mom coaching her kid. The mom and I elected to take Sofie outside, since disembodied voices are slightly less weird when one is out in the open instead of in a box.

She was excellent. Just excellent. She went where I told her to go, never acting up or protesting. I walked her down the Scary Fenceline, and we did lots of trotting all over the place. She trotted away from the barn without balking or wiggling all over the place, and she kept a nice rhythm when turned toward the barn. At one point she spazzed a bit and got a little anxious about leaving the barn area, but instead of getting out of control she let me turn her away from the barn, and she used her energy productively, trotting a sizeable hill with no issues at all. I made up patterns, weaving her through brush and tall grass and weeds. Toward the end of the ride, I wound up doing some work on a loose rein. I started out trotting her toward the barn, and I let the reins go to the buckle and rubbed her neck, which tends to relax her, and sure enough, she slowed to a walk and stretched her neck down without any bit pressure at all.

Then I experimented, turning her different ways and giving her a loose rein. I was actually able to keep her straight, even heading away from the barn, and at one point I actually turned her away from the barn on a loose rein. It was pretty cool.

Just before I quit for the night, I was trotting her on the buckle, and she decided to throw in a canter. Away from the barn. I have no idea why she chose that particular moment, since she usually won't canter away from the barn, but she did, and it was niiiiice. She kept her head down, too, and she was nice and relaxed. I did fleetingly think gee, I hope she doesn't decide to buck because she could definitely get her head down right now! But she doesn't seem to have issues at the canter unless I hold her back too much. Anyway, it was an awesome ride. She was definitely at her best.

Yesterday's ride did not go as well. Sofie was in a bit of a mood (she actually ran at my mom while she was free schooling her, which she hasn't done in quite some time) and I was totally out of sorts for some reason. We were stuck in the indoor, too, because it was raining, and Sofie was just not into it. I can't really blame her, because the indoor sucks (especially compared to the Big Field) but I can't just not ride her when the weather's bad, or she would be a fatball. She kept drifting in really badly tracking left, which we keep having to work on, and for some reason I couldn't deal. So I kept picking at her, and getting mildly annoyed, and reading way too much into her weirdness (the more I focus on her minor evasions/bad behavior, the worse she gets). She never did anything major (she might've swished her tail a couple times, but that was it), she just wasn't a happy camper. She was moving great when my mom free schooled her, so I don't think she was too terribly uncomfortable. I think it was more just not wanting to work on boring stuff in the indoor, and both of us feeding each other's iffy moods. There's just not a whole lot we can do in the indoor, with her stiffness (and limited turning ability), so boredom is obviously going to be an issue.

We did do a fair amount of trotting, and she was actually better at the trot than the walk. She even volunteered the trot a few times, so she might've had excess energy, too, which would make anyone fidgety. I kept putting too much weight in the right stirrup and making the saddle uneven, which made me mad, and then I got mad at myself for picking at Sofie too much when she wasn't really doing anything wrong. I basically just had a crappy outlook that day, and I hate that feeling because I used to have such a huge problem with always picking at myself and my horse and needing everything to be perfect, and Sofie has really helped me with that. I don't think I'm relapsing or anything, I just had a bad day. Which happens. I wasn't abusive or anything, and I did get a nice trot circle to the left, some nice halts and backing, and some nice long and low at the trot, reins on the buckle, with her nose down as far as it could go and her still moving forward. This from a horse that used to just get really inverted when I put the reins forward. I need to just let myself off the hook, because I didn't really do anything wrong, and even if that was a "bad" ride, it was still was still so much better than how we used to be. A year ago she could not stretch down at the trot. At all. A month or so ago, she wouldn't trot without balking and pinning her ears and threatening to blow up. Where we are now, on both our good AND bad days, is a great place to be.

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