Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Great Ride

After our recent progress, I made it out to the barn on a gorgeous fall day. We have been having a lot of rain here, but I was lucky enough to get a good riding day in there. After setting out my stuff I went out to find Sofie, and when I got to the mare field I was amazed. It had been cleaned and dragged, and the old tire feeders had been removed. It looks awesome! After admiring how nice it looked, I slowly realized there were no horses, and I looked around, wondering “Where the heck did Vicky put the horses?” Then I realized they must be in the field directly behind their usual area, so I started off in that direction and I saw where the gate had been opened. As I got closer I saw the mares, way off in the far corner, looking very happy! Sofie looked up and saw me, acknowledging my presence before going back to grazing. When I was within ten feet, she picked her head up again and waited for me. I gave her some hugs and loves before haltering her and heading back to the barn. Of course, the other mares decided to take off and come flying up behind us, but Sofie didn’t get too concerned with their craziness.

The second field is pretty grazed down (the geldings were on it for a while), and it’s so nice for them to have a little more grazing and even more room. They have so much space! I love it!

Sofie was moving fine at the walk, so I groomed and tacked her up, then we headed outside. I was not going anywhere near the indoor on such a fine day! I decided to ride over to my friend Kathy’s place. It is adjacent to Vicky’s property, and she has land with many trails and an outdoor dressage arena, all of which are open to the boarders at the equestrian center. I definitely wanted to ride in the valley behind her house, but first I went on a trail ride in the woods. Sofie was pretty high-energy, definitely thinking about her canter departs! She did listen well, though, backing up very nicely when I had to turn her around to avoid a steep downhill. On the way to the valley I did some back-and-forth leg yielding and walk-trot transitions. She listened well to my seat even when traveling slightly downhill. I did one canter on the trail, and she didn’t quite want to come back to trot! But I had her walk as we reached the valley.

It really is a beautiful area. It’s becoming my new favorite place to ride. There is plenty of open space, with little slopes to help challenge and balance Sofie, and it is bordered by trees, with the occasional tree to ride around. When I first rode through there I thought to myself that it would be a great place for cantering, and we’ve done enough cantering there now that Sofie comes in rarin’ to go! She definitely knows the plan. I actually have to work more on half halting and getting her settled in the trot before cantering, as I don’t want her anticipating or being too crazy.

So we entered the valley, and Sofie immediately took off in a flying trot, head up and ready to go. I brought her back and did some transitions, backing her up before trotting again. It took some half halting to settle her, and for a few minutes she kind of went back and forth between rounding nicely and throwing her head up while rushing forward. But she began to understand, and eventually we were on a circle tracking right, and she was balancing on the slightly varying slope, listening and engaged. She was very round, really reaching down and filling my hands, establishing and maintaining a positive, definite contact. It was like she really got the concept, and she understood that I didn’t want her to just run, I wanted her relaxed and round. She kept her rhythm, not speeding up, and bent from my inside leg, really engaging and rounding through her topline as I asked her to move away from my leg, just slightly, as she went up a small hill.

It was just an awesome feeling. She hasn’t been that engaged in a long time. I felt like she was really understanding me, and I could tell she just looked beautiful. She really can look nice if she’s not tense or unsound! As I rode around on the circle, spewing “Good girl!” pretty much the whole time, I noticed my friend Kathy standing up by her house watching. I think she called out “She looks great!” or something, and I finished up one final circle and then walked Sofie up to say hi to her. I was pleased that someone had actually witnessed us at our best (too often, we look entirely questionable when people are around). We chatted for a bit, and Sofie stood well but occasionally tossed her head, bending her neck low and clearly saying “When can we stop standing around and go CANTER? I was a good girl!!”

Soon we did turn around, and I located the spot where I wanted to pick up the canter. So I circled around, trotted and asked for the canter. Bang on, solid transition and nice canter. We came back to trot, and I did more half halting, and once she was listening reasonably well we picked up the canter again. No hesitation! Once again, we calmed ourselves and then went back to canter. Sofie was quite forward this time, and a bit strong. I attempted to bring her back before we ran out of field, but I had been holding her back a bit too much and she shook her head a little, like “Stop holding me back!” So I eased up, and she made the turn at the end of the field and headed back across the open expanse of grass. I just let her go, and she gradually accelerated to a Sofa gallop. She doesn’t really know how to gallop, a fast canter/hand gallop is about the best she can do. But that’s plenty fast for me, and I enjoyed just riding her full out. She came back to me easily, having gotten that out of her system, and we walked, all forward and snorty ‘cause we went fast. After a breather I finished up with a little more trot work. I always want to end on a controlled, reasonable note. More half halts, and we did some nice trot/walk transitions with a little bending as well. She was good, and I dismounted and led her home. I was so happy with her. I absolutely love her when she works like this. There’s nothing better. We work so hard just building back up to that point after she has time off, and sometimes it’s a little discouraging. But I feel like I know what I’m doing a lot better, and I think the retraining process will be easier in the future. I have a method that works for her, and I have been much more encouraging and supportive as of late. I hope to keep that up. I must keep that up. She does so much for me, even when she is stiff and sore. And when she is feeling good, that’s when it all comes together and we enjoy the hell out of it while it lasts.

1 comment:

  1. It sounds like the perfect day to go riding and it's rides like that; that makie it worth it :)