Saturday, July 3, 2010

Taking It To The Trail

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Things have been iffy in Sofieland lately. But I think they're getting better.

After my lesson on Sunday, I rode Sofie. I was tired, and lame (my right thigh was strained, or pulled, or something. And of course riding two horses in one day is a great idea when you can't even walk without being in considerable pain!). But I still managed to ride reasonably well, and we had a pretty good ride punctuated by resistance. She threw in a lot (like, at least half a dozen) of little balky maneuvers, her tail swished a few times, and her attitude just was not all that happy or willing. She only chose to canter once, despite having numerous opportunities, and she trotted at sub-power. A lot of her resistances happened while trotting up an incline or turning, and for the most part, they were very minor and she trotted on immediately afterwards. I took her on a trail ride in hopes that it might improve her attitude, and she did seem to have fun on the trail, but she was no better in the yard afterwards. Toward the end of the ride, she actually lashed out a bit with both hind feet in when I asked her to trot away from the barn. I did finish the ride with a resistance-free trot transition away from the barn, but still, it was definitely an iffy ride. I had hopes that the next one would be better.

It definitely was not. In fact, it was way worse. We made a mistake early on by not doing any sort of groundwork warmup, figuring I could just walk her undersaddle for her warmup and see how she did. was a failed experiment. She walked around fine, and I rode her outside for much of the warmup, with no issues. But when I asked her to trot, she resisted immediately. And she continued to do so, every single time. Which freaked me out, because she hadn't been that bad in a long time, and she just felt like she might be working up to explode in some way. With a dressage whip, I was able to get her to trot a few times, but she was just weird. So I took her on the trail, and she suddenly had a ton of energy and as soon as we got to the place where I normally trot her, she trotted all on her own, and she trotted most of the way down the trail, wherever the footing was decent enough. I also trotted her on the way back, and she was a little less enthusiastic (it was on a slight incline) but she stayed trotting until I told her to stop without getting all mad. So then I thought maybe she would be all right to trot in the yard...nope. She got all pissed off, once again, and resisted in various ways, once by lashing out with her hind feet. So I got off feeling completely upset and discouraged, because we had only just gotten to the point where I could trot her anywhere in the yard, and now I could barely trot her at all.

So we speculated about why she had suddenly gone all gnarly again. Lately, we've been having 40 degree nights, so the temperature fluctuations may have been hard on her. She may be a little bored with yard work, which I've been doing a lot of, and need more trail time. And, obviously, not doing a groundwork warmup is a bad, bad, BAD idea. Groundwork warmups are very important to loosen her up (because even though she gets lots of turnout usually, she's in a small, inactive herd, and she just doesn't move enough), and they also allow us to see how she's doing. Does she have a ton of energy? Does she have NO energy? Is she in a bad mood? These are important things to know. Sometimes I just want to get on and ride, but obviously, that does not work with this horse.

Yesterday it was HOT HOT HOT, so I figured it was a good day to go trail riding, first on the trail, and if she was good, then on the road. When my mom free schooled her, she was rather lazy at first, but when pushed to move, she cantered and struck out with her forelegs and swung her head and bounced around and was generally a butthead. I was like "GOOD, I'm glad you got THAT out of your system!" I rode her directly to the trail, and she didn't exactly want to go through the Scary Bushes in the Scary Corner, like usual, but she behaved well on the trail and seemed to have fun. I rode her all the way down the trail, and even turned her down the other fork, which was in much better shape than it was the last time I tried that.

Then I decided to try riding her down the road. I hadn't done that in a while, because the last time I'd tried that she was an idiot, and I'd kind of lost my nerve (not that I had much to begin with) for road riding. But I did it, and it went well. It's kind of tiring, riding her on the road, because keeping her straight is a bit of a challenge (she wants to look around, and wander around, and....yeah). I returned to my old strategy of crossing the road at a certain point to find the best footing (for some reason, Sofie doesn't like gravel). She looked hard at a few things, but never did anything really wrong, and we went quite a ways down the road. I know she has extensive trail riding experience, but I don't, and I also don't ride her in a tie-down and a Tom Thumb bit, so venturing down the road is a reasonably big deal for me. My major goal is to be able to ride her all the way down the road, down the highway a bit and onto this other road, and then ride her to a farm that has a nice field (and access to a road that leads to all kinds of other fields). I don't know when we'll be able to do that, but I hope we will eventually be able to. I probably just need to get her out on the road more often so we can both get more comfortable with it and trust each other more. Especially since trail riding seems to do wonders for her, even when she's in a crabby phase. Because when we got back to the yard, I worked up the nerve to ask for a trot transition away from the barn, and she did it for me. No drama.

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  1. OMG LAST PICTURE = WIN! She looks so good! I have to admire all of your work for being so careful with Sofie. All this hard work and trial and error (the correct, patient way) will pay off in the end. Sofie is an awesome little mare.

  2. I agree, great picture and I admire your patience. The trail ride sounds like fun (at least besides the scary stuff) and hopefully you'll be able to get out again =D