Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Inspired by WEG?
October continues to be a glorious riding month, and Sofie is responding to the ideal weather conditions. Our last three rides have been quite good. On Wednesday she looked very stiff when I free schooled her, but not so bad that I couldn't ride, so I saddled up and decided to go for a slight change of scenery. I rode Sofie in the outdoor arena (a large, squareish fenced field that is part of the mares' turnout area) for the first time in six months. Historically, Sofie does not like the outdoor. She generally responds to it with either spooky nuttiness, or sullen, backward-thinking baditude. But I felt like trying her in it again, and with her stiffness I didn't think she needed to be tackling hills, which are hard to avoid in the yard. So we worked in the outdoor for a while, and she was quite good, considering we were in the hated outdoor. We even trotted all the way around the perimeter a couple times, and although she got mad at times, her back feet never left the ground (always a win for us!). Eventually I got sick of riding around the outdoor on my semi-pissed off horse, so I rode out into the yard, went down the trail partway, and when I got back to the yard, she was a very different horse, trotting around with much more enthusiasm. She had more energy than she'd let on, so I took advantage of that and she worked up a bit of a sweat. Maybe she needs to go in the outdoor occasionally so she realizes how much she likes the yard?
Friday's ride was even better. We worked in the yard mostly, and she had good energy and was willing to stay in the trot, even through turns. She played around with bending at the poll and reaching for the bit, and we had shining moments of a nice connection. She was much better about accepting the outside rein and my corrections when she drifted, and she was just a lot of fun to ride. She cantered three times, one of which I asked for...I felt her revving up, and I sat and used my outside leg. She went into it without protesting, but I'm still not ready to just ask her out of the blue. Eventually, though! Her canter is still awesome. She's been cantering at the Scary Corner, and turning toward Judy's house so she ends up cantering up a slight hill (more of a workout for hill, so hey, go for it, Sofie). After I got done in the yard we went down the road, and she wasn't terribly great, but she wasn't terrible either. She just did her never-ending serpentine, and as we got closer to the end of the road, she started wanting to trot, and acted all nervous, which I really didn't buy, especially since she calmed down as soon as I turned her around. I don't think we'll be going on any long road rides anytime soon, but I am getting more comfortable riding her on the road, even when she's spazzy, and it's a nice change of pace when the conditions are right.
On Sunday I went to the barn later in the afternoon and watched the WEG at Judy's. The show jumping was awesome. It was cool to see the top four riders switch horses, and my favorite moment was when Abdullah Al Sharbatly, a Saudi Arabian rider who came from way behind to get in the top four rode Hickstead, an amazing horse (hotter than hell, though). The guy looked absolutely terrified, and of course Hickstead fed off of that and just ROARED around the coarse, bolting off the last fence. I've never seen a rider lean back so far, with the exception of bareback bronc riders at the rodeo. Very entertaining stuff. He did get the horse stopped, though, and he got around the course clear, earning a silver medal (and Hickstead earned Best Horse after taking no rails!).
So after watching that, I went out to ride my Sofa. She free schooled awesome, listening very well and cantering on cue and for as long as I wanted. She even took her right lead once! I was encouraged by that (if a little nervous about her feeling TOO good), and I tacked her up and rode her directly out to the Big Field. There had been all kinds of heavy equipment craziness going on at the neighbors' place, but that all shut down before we got out there. However, there was another distraction in the form of two other horses (GASP) being ridden out there at the same time (NO WAY). Sofie...needs work being ridden with other horses. In the indoor she's fine (if a bit defensive, but it's a small space, so I don't blame her), but out in the Big Field, she tends to hone in on what the other horses are doing. I think she goes back to her rental-horse instincts, because she seems to think that she needs to follow the other horses and do whatever they're doing. Which leads to misunderstandings. For example.
Sofie: OMG They're going that way! I need to go with them!
Me: No, you don't. You need to keep listening to me.
Sofie: OMG THEY'RE CANTERING! I'M SUPPOSED TO BE CANTERING TOO!
Me: No! Pay attention! Do not take off across this field!
Sofie: I'm just trying to do my JOB here. Jeez.
Me: No, what you're doing is drifting and thinking about bolting.
Sofie: All these dressage terms are really confusing me. My life used to be so simple.
Me: Yeah, and your feet used to hurt all the time, too. Pay attention.
She actually did much better this time, though. She could have listened better, but it was a very fun ride. I didn't take my whip along, which proved to be a wise decision (I only needed it once, and she responded to my leg and a strong verbal "Hey!"). She was badass. She had a ton of energy (sometimes it tended toward the "spazzy" side rather than the "productive" side, but whatever) and we trotted all over, did impromptu hill work (what you do when your horse won't stop trotting) and enjoyed quite a few canters (not one of which did I ask for, btw). She did a bit of subtle head-throwing in most of her canters, suggesting that she could, possibly, stomp me into the ground, but little half halts kept her tough talk to just talk, and I made sure I was leaning back a bit. Her canters were fantastic, particularly when she decided to make a half circle. Her self-carriage is just phenomenal, and her canter is so soft and uphill and "collected" (I use that term very, very loosely). In between all this craziness, we did manage to walk calmly through the scary places in the field, and toward the end of the ride we worked on halts. But mostly she motored around, semi-in control, and I just enjoyed the ride. It was good to have a ride like that. I need one like that, just every once in a while, to help me keep the faith when she has bad days and can barely trot and is acting like a beyotch. When this horse is on, she is the most fun to ride. Ever.