Saturday, June 12, 2010

Perfect Timing

I swear sometimes Sofie is equipped with an impeccable sense of occasion. She seems to miraculously know when someone I want to impress (or, ahem, stick it to) is watching, and she delivers.

Like when a girl who never has anything nice to say about my riding (and always likes to give unwanted advice) decided to watch me ride Sofie. I'd only owned her for a couple months, and this was before we fixed her feet, so she was still racing around at the trot and breaking into a canter all the time, inverted as hell and not steering or rating. But for some reason on that particular day she was calm and relaxed. Though she took a few wrong leads and wasn't bending properly, her lovely free walk on a long rein prompted my harshest critic to actually compliment me.

And the time Anne came a little early to trim Sofie's feet, and I was still riding around out in the yard. It seems silly, but I really respect Anne as a horseperson, and I really wanted to show her that I knew what I was doing and I wasn't one of those dressage riders who subject their horses to Rollkur and Neverending Circle Torture. Sofie had been acting up at the trot, but she moved out willingly as Anne watched, and she stretched down into the contact as I bent her in both directions.

So last Wednesday, after a nice half hour or so out in the Big Field, during which we cantered twice, once just because, and once because of scary birds (so very scaaaaary...yeah, right, Sofie) I felt we had done enough out there, so I dismounted and led her back into the indoor. I considered quitting for the night, but I felt like riding a bit more, and I figured getting back on her would help with our ongoing Barn Sourness Eradication (capitol letters make it more Official Sounding), so I brought out the three step mounting block and got back on. Another horse was being led around, but otherwise we had the arena to ourselves.

She walked around pretty nicely, not falling in too obnoxiously or being mad because we were supposed to be done. I picked up the reins and tried a couple trot transitions, and she was quite good. Around this time, I noticed that the trainer who was there to teach a lesson was standing in the office, looking out into the arena, but I didn't really give it much thought.

Since she was being so good, I wound up doing more trot transitions. She was moving forward, on the bit, moving fairly straight and even bending through the corners. I tried a trot-halt transition, then back to trot. More trot-halt and halt-trot transitions. Sofie liked this game. Our transitions weren't super crisp (trot-halt was pretty prompt, but she did take a few walk steps before going back up to a trot) but they were still quite good. It was totally freakish. It was like my arthritic, opinionated little Paint mare who would rather be bombing around a Big Field had turned into a little dressage horse. I mean, we had rhythm, relaxation, forward, straight, bending, and SUBMISSION big time. She was seriously all "What do you want next? I will do it, and it will be SWEET." And I was like "What happened to you, Sofie?" Then I thought about who was watching and went "OH, I GET IT."

Because the trainer watching through the office window was the only trainer who's ever worked with Sofie and I. Our one lesson was a pretty major disaster, since she wouldn't listen to anything I told her about Sofie, and she decided that my horse was just a bitchy mare with a bad attitude, I needed to push her more, she wasn't hurting, she just didn't want to cooperate, blah blah blah. Really, because I didn't think you were an equine vet! So how would you even KNOW if she's hurting? And I know you're like a big time TRAINER, and I'm just a kid, but I'm the one who's been working this horse through her NUMEROUS issues for more than a year, not you. So maybe you should listen to me just a little, okay? But no, she just had to keep asking me "How do you know?" when I told her my horses doesn't like this or that, or my horse gets bored easily and needs variety. "How do you know?" Um, because I actually LISTEN to my horse, which you clearly have no idea how to do.

So then she went on to tell me that she hates mares. Which is always great to hear. And later on in the lesson she actually told her that her gelding tries to buck her off during EVERY SINGLE RIDE. Which, you know, just FILLED me with confidence in this person's ability to ride and train.

So with this firmly in my mind, I rode Sofie for a bit longer, enjoying everything she was giving me freely and happily. I even did turns on the forehand in both directions, which I haven't done since her hock issues surfaced, and of course she did them to the best of her ability. Then I got off and gave her hugs and petted her and then took her in, thanking her for her perfect sense of timing. I really love my horse.

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