Saturday, August 13, 2011

First Week

Our first week at our new home came and went, and it went very well indeed. Sofie has settled in beautifully, and I’m really liking it there. She is out with the mares now, and the sparseness of the grass forces her to actually move around while searching out the best grass. She looks good, and she seems so happy. The herd introduction was handled very well by the barn owner, and Sofie hasn’t gotten even a scratch on her so far.

The turnout seems to be making a difference already. She is warming up so much easier that she has been this year. Before she was taking longer and longer to warm up (sometimes it took just about the whole ride before she loosened up and stopped being cranky), and I was very concerned. I had hoped the turnout would help, but I wasn’t too optimistic since Sofie just doesn’t self-exercise. I’m very happy with the turnout situation for her. I’m hoping it will really help preserve soundness over the long term. It certainly is helping now. Even without free schooling (it is prohibited in the fancy arena with the mirrors) she’s doing fine, mentally and physically.

We’ve been slowly exploring the trail system, the facility itself, and we’ve actually gone on some long rides. Before, an hour ride was about as long as we ever did, and the more typical session was 30-45 minutes. Here, we have many more riding options, which makes it easier (and almost necessary) to stretch things out.

Our first couple rides started in the indoor, then I went on a short trail ride. It didn’t take long for me to get sick of the indoor (it’s gorgeous, but it’s still a boring indoor), so I began doing our dressage work outside, either in the neighboring boarder’s dressage arena or just on the unoccupied front yard area. Sofie seems to do much better outside, and it’s just nice to be out. She was a little nervous at first in the dressage ring in this new random place, but she listened well and we actually got some productive (for us) work done in there. We then rode the trails for quite a while, and she was solid, apart from spooking at a dead stump with holes in it (it has EYYYYYEEEEES….) and a few dead tree limbs here or there. She has never liked tree carnage. Also, when it was time to find our way home, she kept trying to go off onto different trails that I knew would not get us home. So I made her go my way, all the while thinking “Geez, maybe I’m totally screwed up and she’s right!” But my way actually did get us where I wanted it to, so then I got to make fun of her for her superior trail horse home-finding skillz. Then we did some work in this nice little valley, since Sofie was being obnoxious about going home, so of course I had her do more work before letting her do so. She was very fast and fairly strong, but she was actually not totally out of control or breaking into the canter, which was nice. So then I had her canter away from home, just experimentally, and she then became VERY strong. I was literally standing up in the stirrups and hauling on her to get her to stop. So then we tried THAT again, and it went better, so then we went home.

When we did get home I decided to ride her a little in the indoor, so I could see what she looked like in the mirrors (bad idea). We were both tired by that point, so we basically just raced around with our nose stuck out looking terrible. BUT because we looked so bad, we got a free mini-lesson from the resident dressage trainer, because apparently he saw us and was like OMG NOT IN MY BARN. And I felt marginally better about ourselves, because it took like two minutes and some minimal adjustments and we were going nice and round and looking very nice. And I got some good tips to help us along, so it was probably worth it.

We had a very nice ride midweek. I worked her out in the front yard area and tried to work on the stuff that Jesse had me do in my mini-lesson, and it took a while, but eventually she got round and we finished up very well. We also did a bit of canter work, which went well. After we finished up we went on a trail ride, which was very fun. I tried a new loop, so I didn’t have to come back the way I came. After I was done I turned her out with the mares and watched her for a bit. I was so happy to see her out there enjoying herself. I just felt very positive that day.

Yesterday I went back out, and Sofie seemed to have enjoyed our ride also, as she looked up when she saw me, turned and waited for me to come get her. She seemed happy to see me, and I tacked her up leisurely while surreptitiously watching an upper-level lesson. I’d had a tough couple of days, and I was really looking forward to getting outside and riding. I mounted up, headed straight for the trails, aaaaaannnd, huge thunder happening, rain threatening, sky darkening. So I stayed in the front yard area for about 30 seconds until the rain started, and then I went to the indoor. It proceeded to pour rain and occasionally thunder was heard. So I had to ride inside, and Sofie was unnerved by the weather, so she was kind of inverted and all over the place. And while mirrors are a good training aid, they are also not kind to us.

I worked on lots of things. I worked on trying to get her to be round, which wasn’t happening. I worked on the canter, which really wasn’t happening. She just seems really nervous about cantering in the indoor, and all I can think is that the slightly deeper, soft footing makes her uneasy because she’s more used to hard footing. So she keeps rushing in the trot instead of just taking the canter nicely, which she’s never done before. And I HATE when horses rush into the canter. HATE IT. So it’s rather disheartening that we’ve lost our ability to do a nice canter depart. She’s had the same issue outside at this new place, but we’ve made some progress outside, and I actually have gotten her to do a nice soft depart. But the indoor…ugh.

So the canter was terrible. She wouldn’t stop rushing into it, and she leaned in horribly when she was cantering. And after the canter work I did, she was really anxious, and her head was way up, and she was just flying around, totally freaked out. So I had to get her to stop rushing, and I probably used more hand than I should have, so after a while she was just a total mess. It wasn’t entirely my fault, but I did screw up and make it worse. So I was kicking myself. I’m hoping we didn’t lose too much trust.

The only positive is that after totally screwing her up, I did manage to fix it, and I did it on my own, with no one helping me. I got her to relax and come round, in both directions pretty consistently. She started to seek the contact and move around without rushing. It wasn’t totally consistent, as I also had to work on other issues, like her falling off the rail and not listening to my leg telling her “over”. But I think we got some productive work done. I’m hoping I didn’t just make her hate me, at least. She never got mad at me, and she wasn’t lame, so I don’t think it was a total disaster. I wasn’t abusive, I was just not in the right frame of mind, and I could have done better. I’m hoping she will still be my friend. After I got off, I was just so tired. I don’t even know how long I rode in there, but probably more than an hour. The storm was over by then, and I went outside, mounted up and went on a trail ride, because that was all I really wanted to do. She seemed happy on the trail, and we had fun splashing through water, seeing new things, and making the geldings gallop around like crazy when we rode by them. Sofie never spooked.

I suppose I am learning. All the time. I guess it is good to push ourselves. I wanted to get us into shape, and the fact that we can stand up to a long ride is a good thing. I mostly did trot work, and I didn’t push the canter since it wasn’t working. I think we’ll be alright. The work is, or can be, a good thing. We should be able to bend and be round in both directions. There is no reason why we shouldn’t be able to go straight and not waver all over the place. We should even be able to canter well, eventually, if I do enough good trot work and build up her strength. I just have to be careful to stay positive with her. I have to stay out of that grim mindset, because I hate it. We should be able to sustain our relationship even while pursuing my training goals. That is the most important thing.

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