Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Perfect Ride

Last week we rode in the gelding field for the first time this year. I love riding in that field and Sofie seems to love it too. It was a hot, buggy day, so much so that the horses were brought in early. I didn’t even know if I would ride, but then the air cooled off. When I got to the barn the temperature had dropped and although the flies were still out in abundance, it was definitely riding weather.

I pulled Sofie from her stall and brushed her, then free schooled her for a bit so she wouldn’t be quite as fresh when we headed out to the field. She was a bit fidgety in the aisle because of all the flies, but she managed to stay in “park” relatively well while I got us ready. Then we went to the indoor, where I opened the gate to the field and mounted up. We went straight out from there.

Sofie brightened up and was looking around as we headed out of the run-in shed and into the field. She was drifting around, wanting to see everything, but she was totally calm. I walked her around the edge of the entire field to warm up and check the footing. One low-lying area was muddy but the rest of the field was in great shape. After our walk-around period I asked Sofie to trot. She went forward willingly, with energy but no craziness. She didn’t start drifting or getting strong. When I asked her to walk she made the transition nicely. I was already very pleased with how things were going.

I trotted her to the far end of the field where I asked her to canter along the fence line. She went right into it quite eagerly, no resentment. She did take the left lead where the right one was called for, of course, but we were going straight so I wasn’t worried about it. She cantered pretty fast (for her) but nicely balanced and she came back to a trot before the corner when I asked. I turned her around and cantered her the other way and she was excellent. She didn’t veer off toward the barn or worry about the woods outside of the fence. She just went.

We went all over the field, and she did everything right. We went down the “bad” fence line and she stayed much straighter. Then we turned around and I asked her to canter facing the barn, which she was quite happy to do, of course. She really flew, but I never felt like I was out of control and she came back to the trot easily. I walked her past the barn and decided to canter her away from the barn. This was a definite test, since I was going to ask for the canter in an area where she’d been really sticky and resistant in the past (Sofie has her “I want to CANTER now!” places as her “You want me to trot? How DARE you!” places).

I got her trotting without an issue, and I just thought about asking for the canter when she went into it. She cantered beautifully, straight ahead, and she kept going when I asked. It was so exhilarating to be able to just have her canter wherever, no restrictions. No limitations. It’s such a basic thing, but for quite a while I have limited myself in various ways, and Sofie has helped me lose my limitations.

After that last canter I patted her a bunch and then tried one more experiment. I started her trotting toward the barn, with minimal rein contact, and then I applied my seat. She went back to the walk with just seat aids. I was thrilled. I gave her a long rein and rode for just a few more minutes. We went past the barn without drifting too obnoxiously, did an awesome rein-back and one more trot transition and then we were done.

It was one of those rides that shows me how lucky I am. Everything came together for us that evening. The field was free, and the weather changed from hot to cool, with the finest mist in the air. Sofie did everything I asked, and we felt like a team. We were both happy, and everything was smooth, easy and wonderful. We’ve worked so hard to get to this point, and it is so rewarding when things work out like that.

I could really feel our recent progress in that ride. Our field outings were always fun, but they were usually a bit of a wild ride, with Sofie taking off in canter, zipping around and getting strong. She sometimes reminded me of a racehorse. I kind of enjoyed her craziness, but there’s something wonderful about controlled energy. I could keep her in the trot with half halts, just by bracing my back and controlling my posting when she started to speed up. She drifted less, and there was much less of a magnetic pull toward the barn. She had energy, but it was controllable. She let me direct her. There was no irritability, no swishing or balking, no head flinging or other resistance. She never once cantered without my asking. For us, it was a perfect ride. Even though it’s not always like that, I could not be happier with my horse. I love my Sofa.

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