Friday, June 25, 2010


sld 48
Just a cool shot from a recent ride in the Big Field.

Before I write about my recent rides on the Sofa, I just have one thing to say...


Yes, my Damn Freaking Wither-Eating saddle is GONE! It's someone else's problem now! For those who don't know (or remember, or care) the Damn Freaking Wither Eating saddle is an uberfancy, expensive treeless saddle stuffed with empty promises, broken dreams and Memory Foam. It did work quite well for the pony I leased before buying Sofie, but it hated Sofie, and the feeling was mutual.

That was the best news ever. I think it's been on consignment for the better part of a year, and NO ONE wanted it for $1,200. I had recently e-mailed the woman I had it on consignment with and asked her to mark it down to $975 (while weeping uncontrollably...I paid $1,400 for the damn thing!). She responded, telling me to "hang in there", that someone had it on trial (it had been on trial twice before, and NO ONE bought it) and that she would do her best to get it sold for me. I didn't hear back from her for more than a week, and assumed that this new person didn't even want it for $975. Then yesterday I got an e-mail that read "How do you want your $1,000? Paypal or check?". Best. News. Ever.

Monday's ride went really well. It was a little hot and buggy, but we still had a good time. Within the first two minutes of riding outside, though, things became interesting. I literally walked her out of the arena, down the gelding fenceline and toward the Scary Corner, which apparently was Extra Scary at that particular moment. She looked at the Scary Corner, spooked, spun and bolted toward Judy's house. It wasn't a particularly long bolt, nor too fast (just a nice little leapy canter). And I was not at all unseated by the spin! Nice to know I have a good seat. So I got her back down to a trot, then a walk, and, a little unnerved, considered my options. I very nearly took the coward's route and turned her back toward the arena, but couldn't go through with it, because that would be a win for her, not me. So I turned back toward the Scary Corner and, with slight difficulty, got her to turn onto the trail, walking right past the invisible scary Something in the bushes. We went on to have a nice trail ride, and then we returned and worked in the yard. She was quite good, even when she didn't want to be. She was a little perturbed because of the heat and the bugs and my "demands", but she cooperated and we had a nice ride.

So. Thursday's ride. Sofie was twitchy and ADHD, and the weather was lovely and cool and windy, so longeing was definitely in order. She did her version of a gallop and kicked out at my mom (so then she got to move even faster, hehe) but eventually she settled down enough to where I thought maybe I could possibly ride. I did a fairly long warmup in the indoor, testing her out by asking for a little more from her (fairly tiny demands like "Get off my inside leg" and "Walk a little bit faster"). She tends to react a bit when I ask a little more of her, because in her mind, I think she expects me to push her too hard. But I think if I just ignore her protestations, they will extinguish over time. After doing a bit of trotting in the indoor, I decided to go outside and see what happened.

She was amazing. After walking around a bit and cantering in The Place Where We Like to Canter (which went well, except that she threw in a little hop of protest because I had the audacity to put my inside leg on when she started to drift. But I didn't react to it, and she cantered several more strides after that and was perfect), I got inspired and decided to work on transitions. Sofie really did not "get" transitions when I first got her. Once she was in a trot, she wanted to do the Neverending Trot. Which, of course, translated into way less control, especially out in the yard. I remember her haphazardly zooming around the yard on many rides, with me more or less relegated to passenger status. Well, not anymore.

After the first walk transition, during which Sofie trotted through my aids ("Huh? You want me to walk already? Clearly, you don't know what you're doing, and I should just cart you around at my chosen speed."), she started to listen really, really well. We just did many, many walk-trot transitions all over the yard, which got her mentally and physically engaged. I could actually ride her anywhere in the yard and point her in any direction, and she complied. She drifted a couple times, but other than that, she was pretty freakin' perfect. We trotted uphill a couple times (once because she drifted, so I went "A-ha! I shall make the wrong thing difficult!"). After a while, I decided to attempt a large circle to the left at a trot, and while the first attempt was less than pretty, after more playing around with transitions, she got really light and soft, and I guided her around the circle, really doing hardly anything, and she did the best circle she's ever done. The reins were light as threads, but there was a palpable connection happening. I definitely felt her go on the bit and use her hind end several times that day. It was a great feeling, especially after all the troubles we've had in the yard. She really let go of a lot of her preconcieved notions and listened to me. She's really coming along!

Yesterday I hadn't planned on riding, but I wound up doing so because the horses only got out for three hours because of "threatening weather". I personally think there's a greater chance of lightning striking the barn with all the horses in it than of it taking out a random horse out in a field, but whatever. No barn is perfect, and I do love my barn, but sometimes certain things can get annoying. Anyway, I decided to experiment and just tack her up and ride her without any warming up/energy expending groundwork. She stood great, and was totally cooperative for grooming and saddling. It probably helped that two of the other mares were being tacked up at the same time, so she had stuff to watch. She also stood for mounting.

It was a good ride, but we were stuck in the indoor with two other horses, so Sofie wasn't as thrillingly happy and compliant as she had been the day before. She was still really good, though. I was tired and annoyed at various people, so I saw the ride as being a little worse than it actually was. I didn't nitpick at her, though, which was good. She was fairly round through most of the ride, and I trotted her around the arena a couple of times in both directions, and also did shorter trots and transitions. I didn't run into anybody or cut anybody off, which is always good when one rides in a group. I pissed Sofie off a few times by insisting on a little more energy, but by the end of the ride her little reactions had extinguished. She's not as forward in the indoor, and I have to make sure it doesn't turn into full-on laziness or me nagging her all the time. I think I will start to carry a dressage whip again, at least in the indoor. I can always drop it if Fireball makes an appearance, right? I asked for a turn on the forehand in each direction, and she responded each time. She can't really do a "correct" turn on the forehand at this point, and I don't expect her to. I'm just happy that she can and will do it at all under my weight.

So, yeah. Thank you, transitions! Thank you, hills! THANK YOU, SOFIE!

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