Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Heading Uphill

Sofie has been improving. She is still a little out of shape and not at her best. She needs to build some strength and I think she is still experiencing a bit of discomfort. But she has been very willing, and I'm working on slowly building her up again.

We've been able to ride outside the last couple of times. On Thursday I rode out in the yard with a friend. We did lots of trot transitions, both in the indoor warming up and out in the yard. She trotted wherever and whenever I told her to, and even trotted up a hill without any hesitation, which is quite a big deal. The places I prefer to ride are nice and expansive, with lots of little hills, which is very beneficial, except when you have a horse with bad hocks. There are times when she just can't tolerate even the slightest little slope, and there are times when she can charge up hills all day long. Shortly after we trotted uphill, she started stopping as I walked her around, which seems to me like an early warning. "I'm getting uncomfortable...I can't do this much longer...it's time to quit." She didn't stall out completely or anything (she doesn't really know how to do that) and I'd much rather she communicate with a few unplanned halts than some of the other stuff she could be doing.

On Sunday it was really hot, and I didn't even want to ride, but we went out around 5 and brought the horses in so I could ride in the Big Field, which I hadn't gotten to do in forever. It was surprisingly pleasant while I was riding, and the bugs didn't seem to bother Sofie (at least not enough to make her throw her head). She went around well for not having been out there in over a month. She was wary of the woods behind the back fenceline, and she spooked once at birds taking off noisily behind her, but she was very good. I didn't ride for very long because she felt a little off and I didn't want to push it and set her back. But we did get some trotting done, and some hill work done, and I ended the ride after she trotted away from the barn on floaty reins without drifting or weaving.

I'm optimistic about this fall. Hopefully we'll get lots of nice weather and be sound and have a great time!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Good Sofa

After Sofie's occasional nuttiness, barn sourness and "difficult" moments, I was a little bit discouraged. Mostly, I was happy to be riding again, and having fun even when things got "interesting" (I still have this horse for a reason, and that reason is not because she's perfect), but there was a tiny bit of me that remembered how good she was back in June, and I wondered how long it would take to get over our "back to work issues". I know how to handle her issues now, but it was still a bit of a drag to have to revisit them.

On Tuesday, I wasn't sure if I would be able to ride outside, as the clouds were heavy and the rain had been pouring earlier. I started out in the indoor, riding with a friend and her mare (the first time in quite a while that I've ridden with someone, yay!). Sofie did well even on a circle at the walk and I did several trot transitions. She was not exactly thrilled, but she was definitely trying for me. Eventually I decided to take her outside, since she was clearly bored with the indoor and there wasn't a downpour going on.

We walked around for a bit, and she did very well. She was clearly happier outside, and she walked forward nicely. I was happy just to be walking her around outside - it's so nice after the monotony of the indoor.

Walking away from the barn on a flat stretch of yard, I decided to try a trot transition. I had been avoiding that potential conflict, but she felt so good, she was even speeding up in her walk, and I had a whip, so what could really go wrong? I decided to find out. I asked her for a trot, expecting some kind of bad reaction, but instead she just trotted forward softly without so much as pinning her ears. I was so happy, I let her trot a few steps and then patted her and exclaimed over her.

Heading back to the barn, I trotted her a couple more times. She decided to "take off" trotting in her new favorite Go Faster spot, but I just went with it and she came back down fairly quickly. Then I turned her away from the barn and tried trotting her again, and once again, she was light, responsive and straight, not weaving or protesting in any way. Once again she was heavily praised, and then I quit for the day.

I didn't expect her to feel like that. But there were moments when she felt like she did on our best days. We will get there again. I know that now.

sld 29

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Good Sofa! I mean, bad Sofa! I mean, good Sofa!

Sofa is feeling much better. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

When I free schooled her on Sunday, she had a lot more energy than she's had in a while. One of the first times I asked her for a trot, she cantered from the walk instead, and she continued to throw in lots of big, "expressive" canter departs. There was a lot of head flinging, bouncing, striking out and general "expressiveness". She pick up all her feet for me, even the right hind, which hasn't happened it a while. I had a feeling our ride would be interesting, but it was a lovely day and I wanted to ride outside.

So I walked her twice around the indoor and then went out the open gate. She walked around nicely, staying nice and straight even when heading away from the barn. I was very happy with that. After a bit I tried trotting her in a sort of neutral area (not away from the barn, and not quite toward the barn) and she was good. But then she decided she felt really good, and wanted to continue trotting, preferably right to the barn. Which was not happening. So we fought for a minute, and then I gave up on trying to stop her from trotting and just turned her away from the barn, like "If you want to trot that badly, you can trot this way!". And she did, remarkably well. I was happy with how that went, and figured the worst was over as we continued on to the Scary Corner.

Of course Sofernutter didn't want to go through the Scary Corner. So she started trotting and veered off in the direction of Judy's house. I could feel her wanting to canter, and my options were either Stop Her From Cantering and Deal With The Consequences, or Let Her Canter and Deal With The Consequences. I was sick of fighting her and I knew she was sick of it as well, so I let her canter.

She started cantering and crow-hopping and bouncing and head-flinging. There wasn't a lot of power behind it, and I don't know if it was a "Let me GO already!" reaction or a "I'm not so sure about cantering up this hill while hauling your butt around!" reaction. Maybe a combination. But I came out of the saddle a little and pitched forward (BAD, I know...I should be able to ride it better than that. Must work on it.) and she she stopped screwing around, which I appreciated. Clearly there were no evil intentions there. I didn't get too freaked out by it, either. It was kind of fun-ish, in a way. And at least we got to canter!

After that, she walked around just fine, apart from stopping in front of the trail entrance again. I'm not sure what her deal is...she seems to have fun on the trail once we get on it, but she's been silly about going on the trail for a while now. Anyway, she responded to a tap from Mr. Whip (I'm starting to get more comfortable using the whip on her, and she responds to it) and we went down to the first turnaround. I did a couple trot transitions on the trail, and she was a little reluctant, but good.

I think our "issues" were mostly a case of Too Much Energy. That can be solved, though, and it means she's feeling better, so I will take some "expressiveness" and Bad Sofa Behavior over the alternative any day.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

You Don't See That Every Day

On Wednesday I rode Sofie outside, and she was not as happy as she usually is, but she was definitely trying for me. She walked all over the yard, she was light and she listened very well. She didn't act up at all until I walked her away from the barn for at least the third time, and her acting up was quite minor. I could just feel that she was not happy, and was thinking about maybe doing something about it. She tried trotting a couple times, but I just brought her back down and continued on toward the trail, as I intended to just go down it a little ways. She stopped at the trail entrance, but with a little squeezing, she went forward, and she didn't get nasty or anything, it was more "Do we HAVE to?".

Then Annie came to trim her feet, which I was nervous about because she'd been having so much trouble picking up her right hind and putting all her weight on the left hind. I had delayed it about a week but didn't feel comfortable letting it go any longer (her feet are kinda important, after all), so I just had to hope for the best. We put on her cooler to help keep the flies off, and Annie was very patient with her even when she yanked her feet away. Sofie was very good and she really tried to cooperate even though I could tell it was hard on her. And her feet are still rock-solid, of course. WE LOVE ANNIE!

So. Onto Friday, which got interesting at times. But in a good way.

DISCLAIMER: No, I did not get any of this on camera. Of course.

When I arrived at the barn on Friday, I discovered that all the horses were in, as I'd figured they would be, since rain had been pouring on and off all day, interspersed with intermittent thunderstorms. The horses do not go out in thunderstorms. Sofie's door was open, however, so she had access to her paddock but it didn't look like she had gone out much. Sofie doesn't go out in pouring rain, or any kind of rain, really, if she has the choice. She loves her stall. I've never seen a horse who loved their stall more than she does. She never looks bored or upset in there, even if she's been stuck there all day.

A quick glance into the arena revealed that a guy had brought shavings. His truck and huge trailer were in the arena, and the trailer was nearly vertical. I didn't think it was a great idea to free school Sofie in there with all that stuff, so I just parked her in the aisle and groomed her. She let me pick up all her feet and clean them even though she'd just come out of her stall, which was very encouraging. The guy came back and started unloading the shavings, but she didn't care about the strange noises coming from the arena. I figured I didn't have time to wait around for him to get it over with so I could free school (my neighbor had dropped me off on her way to the feed store, and I didn't know how soon she would be back). So I decided I would tack her up and just handwalk and hope for the best.

She was not thrilled with the girth being tightened (I got some "Can I bite you now plz?" looks). But I got the girth all the way to two and two (yeah, I was just killing her) and decided to take her in the arena. I wanted to start warming her up and also see how she reacted to the freakin' huge truck and trailer in the arena.

So I led her around, talking with the shavings guy (who also helps clean the barn in the mornings some of the time), and she wasn't too impressed with the truck/trailer/shavings pouring out of it/guy standing way above her head banging on the trailer to help the shavings pour out. She looked, but she didn't get too worried, and she didn't spook. I was impressed, but not all that surprised. She never finds over-the-top scary things scary. It's the totally benign stuff you gotta watch out for.

Like when Shavings Guy came back, sans truck and trailer, to shut the arena gate. She FREAKED OUT and actually spun around to keep an eye on him. I don't know why he was suddenly so scary. Maybe she never even noticed him until then with all that stuff going on, and it startled her. Whatever, Sofie.

But after he left we got our ride on. She was really good. We couldn't really go outside because it was raining and storming on and off, and I was concerned about the surface, plus no one was there to open the gate. So we didn't go in the Big Field, darn it. But we had a really good ride in the indoor. She went around in a steady (if a little slow, for her) rhythm and listened well and didn't get ticked off at me when I made her go a certain way or didn't let her fall in. I started to experiment with lengthening her walk, since I wanted to start asking her for more speed, and I'm not exactly brave enough to just go "Sofie, trot!". It works better to start from a lengthened walk and do a little at a time until she figures out it doesn't hurt.

So I started asking her to lengthen, and after a few times she started to actually march forward in a bigger walk. I also did some halts, and a little bit of shortening, and she was mostly responsive. Then finally after a halt in a corner and then a lengthening, I got her to trot a few steps. She definitely felt a little off, and she threw her head around a little, like "This is a little uncomfortable for me", but I just petted her and praised her a lot and then let her walk and stretch. Then I did the same thing in the other direction, and she was just as good. I ended with a halt and like two tiny little steps backward. She got her hugs and all her tack taken off, and then I went to take everything into the barn, except the whip which was lying on the arena floor.

So Sofie took a step forward, stepping on the whip with one hoof. And she put her head down near the floor and started moving the whip with her nose so it smacked on the arena floor. She did that several times, while I stood there cracking up and wishing I had it on camera, because it was definitely Cute Overload material and infinitely YouTube-able. "Sofie Cracks The Whip!" ROTFL.

Then I had to clean up her stall and her paddock. She went back in her stall (of course) so I wound up taking the bucket and manure fork in and cleaning with her right there. So she decided it would be fun to play with the handles on the manure bucket and threaten to knock it down while I was cleaning. So she stood there gently pulling on the handles while I went "Don't you pull that over. Sofie. Do not pull that over. If you pull that over, Sofie, I WILL kill you.", etc. etc.

Ah, Sofie. She may have her issues, but we love her no matter what.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Back On The Sofa!

So after a little over a month, I decided to try riding Sofie again. She has been moving better and more forward lately, and the weather has finally cooled around here. It's been so hot and humid and nasty for the past month that I haven't even wanted to ride. Sofie does have a sense of timing...

So I brought out the saddle, which of course prompted a "What do you think you're doing with that thing? I thought I was RETIRED!" look from Sofie. She was less than thrilled with the idea, of course.

I decided to start out in the indoor, since she had been so barn sour and unwilling to go forward the last time I'd ridden her outside. I figured we could do without negotiating hills, at least for the first few minutes of the ride. I also carried a dressage whip in case of any balky moments. She started out fine, and I tried to stick to straight lines and generous turns while still keeping things interesting for her. She stretched down very decisively and very low when I let the reins out, which made me happy. We may not be able to do a whole lot, dressage-wise, but at least our free walk is solid!

I tried a few halts, and she was pretty responsive. She did stall out after one and she thought about acting out, but I tapped her with Mr. Whip and she went forward again. Then I decided, somewhat nervously, to try taking her outside. I was going to walk her just a little ways away from the barn and then get off, but she felt fine so I kept going. She wanted to drift over to the barn, but I said no, and she listened without getting upset (she thought about it, but she didn't follow through). We successfully made it up a slight incline without having a hissy, and kept going on toward the Scary Corner. She looked at something (that may or may not have been an actual something) way off in the woods behind the gelding field, and started to go sideways. I tried to keep her going through the Scary Corner, but she decided that was simply too scary was not going to happen, and she went more sideways and started trotting toward Judy's house. Up a hill.

At this point I was hoping she wouldn't get mad at me for supposedly making her trot up a hill, as she has been known to do, but she decided that trotting away from the Scary Corner toward Judy's house was awesome, and she started thinking about cantering! So of course I went OH NO YOU DON'T and got her half-halted down to a walk and turned away from the house and the barn and we went back toward the Scary Corner, only to drift away again. It took several circles before we could walk through the Scary Corner (with my mom standing IN the Scary Corner, as she often does...it seems to help horses cope with all the terrifying-ness). Then I let the reins out, and she stretched waaaay down, all the way to the ground, like "Oh, I wasn't really scared." Which, you know, I kind of knew. It wasn't as if she hadn't seen it in forever, considering I only walked her through the yard a million times during her month of semi-retirement.

So it was a good, fun and interesting first ride, and I'm looking forward to riding all this fall, if the Sofa allows it. She is The Boss Mare.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Preview

sld 23 neck

I wish I had a new post ready, but I've just been too distracted by unrelated things. But the above picture has something to to with a post that is in the works.