Thursday, March 31, 2011

Taking It Outside

Sofamare has become catchable again after her short-lived rebellion. Even after I caught her and took her directly to the waiting veterinarian for her vaccinations (which involves twitching her, as she tends to drag people down the aisle when she sees a needle), she remained catchable. Last time I went to grab her she kind of gave me the grumpy face, and I waited to see if she would walk off. She just stood there, sniffed me, checked me over and stood there some more. Then I had to mess with the halter (it was all twisted) so she waited some more. Grumpy faces aside, I think we're doing alright.

Our last two rides have been outside, and it looks like we'll get out again today before some questionable weather moves in. But before that, we rode once in the indoor on kind of a bitter, cold day. She did well at the walk and trot, and her head carriage was nice for the most part. If I kept a slightly long rein, she stretched into the contact nicely on her own. When I tried to pick her up a bit more, she got a little inverted and didn't quite want to soften, but we worked on that a little. I love her nice, long and semi-low frame, and I'm very happy when she establishes the contact on her own.

She wasn't really off at all in front, so I decided to try the canter again. She picked it up without too much drama (ears back and some hesitation) to the left. She drifted in towards the end of the long side and seemed to be compensating a bit for her shoulder (or whatever it is that has been bothering her, front end wise) but it wasn't a bad canter. She didn't want to pick it up tracking right, but on my second "ask" she picked it up without bucking and maintained it well. After that I worked on getting the trot and walk nice again. She was anticipating a little, but we managed to work through it. It's something we need to practice.

The next ride, we ventured outside. It was a nice day but we proceeded to have a not very good ride. She was rather off in front, which I think contributed to her drifting and not wanting to bend or be round. She wasn't being bad or resisting, she just seemed to be having trouble going round and moving properly. I'm still not sure what her front end issue is. It seems somewhat intermittent, and it doesn't get worse towards the end of a ride. I wish we had a good, reputable equine massage therapist up here. We pretty much only have access to unlicensed people who are a bit...special. If you know what I mean.

Our last ride was much better. I didn't free school beforehand, since she seemed pretty dead calm. Of course as soon as I got her outside, she became very "keen". I was slightly apprehensive about getting on her, but I got her parked at the mounting block and she stood well. She walked around fine and we managed to hold it together pretty well through most of the ride. She was moving much better and seemed rather happy and perky. I opted for more straight lines and worked in different parts of the yard, and she followed my direction well. We did some really nice trot-walk transitions in the early part of the ride. I’ve been impressed with her responsiveness lately. We’ve certainly improved our downward transitional ability!

Out in the yard, she hasn’t been as round as I can sometimes get her in the indoor, but she hasn’t been too terribly inverted, and I think overall she’s improved since I started working on getting her round. She can get a little stiff in her jaw when she’s outside, but we haven’t had too many issues with that. I’m still waiting for the yard to dry out in places, and when it does I’ll have more room to work in some turns and figures, which help with the bending and flexion.

Right now I’ve been doing my circle work in the main flat area in the yard. There’s quite a bit of room there, and I can do a huuuuge circle or even work in some serpentines. I was riding her down there at a trot, when she decided she needed to canter and took off straight up a hill. Just the thing to do when you’re sore in the front end, right? Sofie stumbled a bit in front near the top of the hill, and came back to a trot. I turned her around and went back to what I’d been doing, but apparently she hadn’t gotten it out of her system because she attempted to canter back up the hill. This time I pulled her back to a trot (with some difficulty…hello, concrete mouth) and with some well placed half halts and downward transitions I managed to get her to listen a little better. We still had a few disputes (and one brief canter on a circle…OMG, I love her canter when she‘s bending. It‘s so nice and collected…). Fireball was really in the mood for cantering that day. It’s kind of fun when she gets a little hot, as long as it stays manageable. I like her energy and her sassiness, what can I say?

After her unauthorized canter bonanza, Sofie was a bit anticipatory, and it took a little work to convince her to just walk. After some repetition, she understood and we finished up with a little walk on contact and then a nice, relaxed walk on a long rein. I dropped my stirrups for the cooldown, and we both enjoyed just chillin’. It was a nice way to end the ride.

The next time I saw Sofie she looked a little stiff, maybe because of her insistence on cantering hills. I free schooled her briefly to see how she was moving, and she didn’t look her best but she didn’t look terrible either. Sofa was in a good mood, and she wasn’t giving me the grumpy face, which was nice. I got us ready to ride and we headed outside. She was quite alert once we got out there, but she stood very nicely at the mounting block and even waited for me to find my stirrups (how kind of you, Sofamare!).

She wasn’t really very “off”, just slightly more so than the last ride. She was still pretty willing but a little resistant here and there. It was a mixed ride, with some very nice moments and some disputes. Near the beginning, when I picked up the reins in the walk I could tell she wanted to trot, but she kept walking. I was really proud of her. Then when we started trotting, things got a little interesting. Fireball was apparently still present, and she picked up the canter first over by the barn. It was quite nice and not too out of control, so I let her canter a little ways before bringing her back to the trot with my seat. After that, I worked her in the large flat area, and she tried to canter up her new favorite hill again. I kept her on the circle, and she broke to a trot. Soon she threw in another canter, this time getting a little strong and fast. She was heading in the direction of the snow fence (I dunno why) and I when I asked her to stop taking me for a ride, she got mad, throwing her head and bouncing a little. Once she was down to a walk I adjusted the reins and we regrouped. She continued to be a little weird throughout the ride, trying to break into the canter at times and getting a little pissy here and there. She wasn’t too bad, but it wasn’t our most polished ride by any means. On the positive side, I’m able to deal with her little outbursts now, and I had expected some drama once we got outside. I knew we needed to work on our little control issues, and so far she’s been better than I thought she’d be.

Once again, we had some issues with her not wanting to walk, but we worked through them and she was walking relaxed at the end. We even went on our first trail ride of the year! The trail still has some snow here and there, but it’s not too deep and quite a bit of it has melted down to bare ground. We had a great time on the trail. We didn't go too far (there was more snow further down) but we did do a giant spook at a rabbit (OMG they're rabid, you know) and we went through a HUGE puddle that encompassed the entire width of the trail. Experienced trail horse that she is, she tiptoed around the less-deep edge on the way through, and then we had to turn right around and walk back through it again. The second time she went right down the middle, head low, putting her feet down carefully. At one point she stopped and started pawing at the water, and I, seeming to remember reading something about horses pawing at water crossings before attempting to go down and roll, went "NO way!" and urged her onward.

I'm going out again today, and we'll see how the beast is. Maybe if she's not too sore in her front end, I'll work a little on the canter on my terms. Wow, really, I have those? I also have some video that I'll try to get posted somewhere in here, but I make no promises. I have a model horse show that I'm leaving for in two weeks, as well as all the usual things clamoring for my attention (goats, sheep, baby animals, my television shows, etc.).

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