Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Things That Prevent Me From Blogging
I have been critically short on time for a while now, and my blogging has declined due to many commitments and distractions (some pictured above). What writing time I have has been devoted to my novel lately, as ideas are flowing and my brain has unlocked, leading to real progress on that front.
Sofie is fine. She is a source of comfort and enjoyment, always there when I need her. Whether she gives me sweetness or attitude I enjoy her company.
Her hematoma remained for so long that we had the vet out to lance it, but on the day he came out it had finally started to go down on its own (what timing). I guess she didn’t want him to have to poke a hole in her. It’s gone away completely now.
After close to five months of uninterrupted riding, Sofie started to look stiff in her hocks. She was having a harder time under saddle and looked uncomfortable when she trotted, so I decided to give her some time off. I hand walked her outside and incorporated groundwork, which we needed a bit of a refresher on. I didn’t mind the downtime and she stayed cheerful throughout. It wasn’t a bad flare-up; after only a little over a week I went out to catch her and she was in a mood. She turned her butt to me, so I smacked her with the halter and she proceeded to walk all the way to the end of the field. When I caught up to her she still didn’t want to be caught, so I started moving her around. She cantered with no issues, and even whipped around (at a canter) and nailed one of her mare friends in the side. Clearly she was mad that I kept pursuing her and decided to take it out on Jessie. I decided that if she could do all that she could definitely handle being ridden!
I was able to ride three times last week. Our bending skills are a little rusty but overall we’re not doing too badly. The first day I rode Sofie had lots of energy. I started out in the indoor for a few minutes as she seemed a little spazzy, and she was pretty inverted in the walk. When we started trotting she felt pretty nice, and she popped into a nice little canter (tracking right, too) all on her own. So I asked her to canter once, and she did it with her usual complaints (a little bouncing around and rrrrrr). She really wanted to go outside, and kept drifting toward the open gate as if magnetically drawn. I was not at all convinced we weren’t about to have an “interesting” ride, but I wasn’t about to stay inside any longer so we headed out. Sofie was quite good outside, even with her energy and enthusiasm. She seemed happy to be out, and apart from quite a few unplanned canters, she listened well. I was pleased that she never got really strong, and even when she went into the canter, I never felt like she was running off. We finished up the ride by going down the trail, where I included some trot work. She picked up the canter once, and when she broke to a trot I asked her to canter again. She went into it with no issues. It was definitely not a “polished” ride, but I had a lot of fun with it and I think Sofie did too.
The next day I returned to see how she was doing. Sofie was slightly off, nothing major, so I rode again. I think she was a little sore, as she was grumpy about trotting, so we did mostly walk work. We didn’t accomplish anything exceptional, but she got exercised, I got to ride, and we got to practice working with distractions. The barn owner was working on loading her horse, which makes Sofie anxious. I rode her within sight of the trailer and worked on turns to keep her more focused. Sofie tensed up a few times but she stayed with me.
The next time I rode the barn owner wound up loading her horse again, and Sofie was a little spazzed out about it. We actually had a couple spooks, and she was on edge for most of the ride. So we had a few unplanned canters, but we held it together pretty well.
After working in the yard for a while I decided to try riding down the road. I had been really nervous about riding on the road, and I’d been waiting for the perfect time when Sofie was calm, there were no foreseeable distractions, and it was 90 degrees, but I just decided to go for it. Our first road ride of the year went very well. It was a Saturday, so people were home and dogs were out, but we had no mishaps. There was a man watering his lawn by the first house we passed, and I knew Sofie has a thing about water spraying (at least, she doesn’t like oscillating sprinklers and you can’t bathe her with the hose). I was not ready to deal with her potentially being stupid, so I asked her to counterbend so she was looking the other way. I was dubious that it would work, but it totally did, so that was nice. The man with the hose also noticed us and told his dog to stay, which was nice also. We only went to the second house and then I turned around, figuring it was a good start. On the way back I let her look at the man with the hose, and she didn’t even care. I guess ten foot stream of water = okay, spinning water that makes a ch ch ch sound = not okay. Hmm.
Today I got to the barn at around 11, and I only had about and hour and a half before I had to get somewhere else. I really wanted to ride, so to save time I just brought her in, gave her a quick brushing, cleaned her feet and then tacked her up. I did not free school, and I fully expected her to be a leetle crazy but figured I’d just deal. Sofie looked really thrilled to be getting ready to ride again, but I didn’t take her overwhelmingly “meh” demeanor personally.
My prediction of high energy levels turned out to be right on. She was pretty full of it! She was not listening terribly well to rein aids and her walk was quite forward, almost a little rushy at times. I tried to work on softening her up but I wasn’t really getting anywhere, so I started my trot work to try and let some energy out. I first asked for the trot in one of her “grumpy places” in the yard, and when she gave me attitude I tapped her with the whip, which prompted her to pick up the canter. She did that twice in succession. I didn’t really mind, because her canter was nice, she didn’t buck, and at least she picked it up in response to something I did, instead of just because she felt like it. Progress!
After that we bombed around for a while, not listening too well but not being completely out of control or anything. She took off a few times (at a quickish canter, which is about as fast as a Sofa goes) but I didn’t fear for my life, and what’s really nice is even when I was having to pull on her, she didn’t get mad and fling her head or kick out like she used to. I had to do a fair amount of hand riding, which I don’t love having to do, but it’s nice that she’s able to tolerate that now. I used to just kind of let her go and then softly bring her back, and now I can actually hold her back somewhat. She did listen to my half halts really well at least some of the time (she did a lot of breaking into the trot, and I was able to bring her back with just seat a few times), so although it was a bit of a wild ride, we did have good moments. And I’m not afraid of her anymore, which just makes things so much easier.
I had hoped to ask her for the canter outside, and I did do that. I asked her to pick up the canter heading away from the barn, and I reinforced with a tap right away when she started to give me attitude. She picked it up pretty nicely, with just a couple bucks, and she maintained it well. I still need to work on confirming the canter (I still need to work on a LOT), but it’s a start! I’m looking forward to doing more canter work this year on my terms!
After all that I knew I needed to get her to calm down a little. I worked on just walking for a bit, but she still had too much energy. She wasn’t really bending either, so I decided to try and do some trot circles. I started out tracking right and Sofie quickly remembered how to bend and lower her head. She even did a pretty good job of not falling in, and she was so nice and relaxed! It’s nice to know she still has it in her. Our left circle was pretty rough at first (she was thinking about cantering) but eventually I got at least a partial circle that was round and properly bent.
With that accomplished I briefly debated whether I should ride down the road again. I wanted to, but I figured I would need to have a death wish to do it when Sofie was so high-energy. But it was Monday morning, so there would be no distractions at least…in the end I just went for it. Sofie was very good. She thought about being stupid a few times (the worst being at the beginning of the road ride, and it was fairly minor) but she stayed nice and straight throughout most of the ride and she cooperated very well with my wishes. She was really amazingly good considering how snazzy and wired she had been in the yard. She was actually quite relaxed on the road at times! I pushed us both and went all the way down the road. Sofie got a bit wiggly towards the end but didn’t pull anything obnoxious. I was really proud of us both.
I didn’t make it a goal because I wasn’t sure if I was up to it, but I’d like to get us more comfortable on the road this year. Sofie is pretty good on the road (she’s never done anything really drastic that I couldn’t handle, even when something really got to her) but she’s not what I’d consider super reliable. I also need to expand my confidence, because I’d really like to expand our trail options. And I’ve realized that if I want her to be better on the road, I need to try and ride her there every time, until it’s no big deal. One road ride every few weeks isn’t going to make her more reliable. So I went down the road these last two times to prove to myself that I could. And every time I’m able to ride Sofie when she’s spazzy or energetic or whatever, I build confidence that I can handle whatever happens. I’ve come a really long way, and while we still have a lot of work to do, I’m confident that we are headed a good way.