Saturday, October 22, 2011

Three Solid Rides, and a Lumpy Sofa

This week the weather has been overtly cold, windy and rainy, which makes life at the barn somewhat more frigid. I seem to be refusing to adjust to the seasonal change, and am still insisting on wearing my summer (i.e. THIN) riding pants and my little clogs, though I have conceded to wearing turtlenecks and occasionally a winter coat. Apparently my top half can adjust, but my lower half is stuck in summer?

The barn in tolerable, once you adjust to the walk-in freezer effect. Going out to fetch my pony can be rather miserable, depending on the wind velocity/direction. One day when walking Sofie in, the wind was in our faces, blowing me around so I couldn't walk a straight line and throwing snow/sleet/rain at us! Sofa tucked her face into her chest (rollkur!) and glared out at the weather as I hurried her along.

We were pretty much stuck in the indoor this week, as it was either too cold/windy/rainy to make venturing out a profitable experience. Of course, now that we have a gynormous indoor with good footing and mirrors, that is not such a bad thing. However, I still prefer outside. I will ALWAYS prefer outside.

On Sunday, Cathy (who doesn't spell her name with a K, I finally figured out) showed up just as we were getting ready to start, and she joined us in the ring with her mare a little later on. We warmed up along the outside track, doing our usual corrections and being stiff and creaky at first. She wasn't too bad, though, considering the cold. Starting to trot, I think she was a little reluctant in the first transition, but she was soon trotting around nicely, only bobbling occasionally. She was staying reasonably straight and was pretty round, with occasional lapses. All in all, pretty much a steady, decent ride!

Tuesday was annoying varied, weather-wise, with cold rain and sun mixed. I attempted to ride outside at the beginning, but was thwarted by rain. So we went back in, and had another good, productive ride. Other than the usual straightness reminders, and slight stiffness/bobbling, she did really well. She was round at the trot, bending both ways and just going along nicely. She did not want to back up at first, but got lighter after a few repetitions. During the ride, I noticed that she was not staying round in all her transitions, so I decided to try and fix that. She stayed nicely round at the trot, and was steady in her walk-trot transitions, but in her trot-walk transitions she momentarily raised her head. So, I put her on a slightly long rein, and tried to use light aids and do gradual, soft transitions. And after a few tries she got it, and we did many nice transitions in a steady, strechy frame! Good girl! I got off after that was accomplished, and we went outside to try and make the most of a brief sunny spell. I went on a short (very short) hack before turning around when it looked like it was going to rain. But it didn't rain, so we did a little work on the flat, grassy area. Sofie was forward (yay outside!) and nicely round, stretching to the bit. We went successfully through the Bad Corner, and did some nice turns. She was so supple and bendy! We ended with a successful straightness test (trotting her away from the barn, I took all my aids off and she didn't waver! Yay!).

Thursday we did not venture out, but we made the most of our indoor ride. It was definitely a solid ride throughout. She would occasionally fall in off the rail, but not too badly. She is maintaining her straightness for longer periods of time, so my corrections appear to be working. I try to “correct and release” rather than “hold”, which is not a great trap to fall into. I want to preserve her lightness and forward initiative!

Her trot work was nice, and she was able to pretty much just go around the rail at a nice, soft tempo, nicely, consistently round. When she occasionally pops above the bit I can now half halt and get her to soften while tracking straight. Before I would have to turn or circle to get her round. She is way more trusting of my hands. With a little bit of vibration on the reins, she goes back to being round. Very cool.

We were working around an upper-level horse and rider who were in a lesson, so I made sure to stay out of their way as we went along in a vaguely dressage-y way. This meant an occasional unbalanced turn (emphasis on “get the hell out of the way!” rather than “make sure our shoulders are aligned”), but no big deal. We did some transitions, but mostly steady trot work. Turns were successful both ways, and our straightness was decent, with only occasional drifting or wobbling. Eventually I tried circles both ways. I made them smaller than usual to test our bend and balance, and they worked out quite well! She listened to my little steering adjustments, and according to my mom who was watching at that point, Sofa looked round and expressive! Really, my little arthritic paint mare, expressive?! How nice!

In addition I did a few rein-backs (heavy and resistant at first, but subsequent improvement) and I worked a little on turn on the forehand. She did very well with that, very stationary in front, still a little quick and spinny with the turns but I don’t really mind that. Nearly done, I tried some halts on the rail. She was nice and balanced in the walk, and her halts were all "Sofa square" (square in front with only one hind leg back). Then we actually got a legit square halt! I was amazed. I got off to reward that, dismounting on the off side since we were too close to the wall for me to swing off on the "correct" side. I managed to dismount without a problem, despite having no muscle memory for dismounting on the "wrong" side. And with that, we were done! It was the best, most "trained-feeling" ride we've had in a while. I just felt like she was actually trained! How novel, I know right?

Then on Saturday, I brought her in and noticed this:

"What happened here?!"

Yes, I discovered a soft, puffy place on the point of her shoulder, which is draining down into her chest. Another hematoma, Sofie? I have no idea how she gets herself into such trouble. She is not an aggressive or alpha mare. I mean, she's Sofie! How she gets herself beat up is beyond can you not love that face?! She must've mouthed off to the wrong mare...

Her last hematoma was late winter/early spring, and it wound up being a rather large, very firm mass between her front legs. It took at least six weeks to go away, disappearing, coincidentally, right when the vet came out to lance and drain it ("No one's going to stick a big needle in me!"). So this time when I found her lovely lumps, I just casually remarked "My horse is lumpy" and kinda shrugged. She has gotten so many cuts, abrasions, lumps and various little, non-dramatic injuries that I have become incredibly blase when they show up. She runs through things, she gets sore and cranky sometimes...and she's still okay.

We did go for a ride (with my friend and her matching, Sofa-colored gelding!) and finally, we had outside riding weather! Sofa was stiff, so we went on the trail to loosen her up. I was enjoying just trail riding, so we went on, first on flat ground and then, for a change of pace, we went down into Cathy's land. I deftly found us a nice steep hill to go down (my friend was less than thrilled, especially when I told her, after the fact, that I in fact had never been down that particular hill before) but I got off and led Sofa down it and one other hill. She seemed to handle the terrain fine, and we kept it relatively easy, walking much of the time. I think we all enjoyed getting out. I did trot her a little bit in the valley and the front yard area, just to test things, and she was good. She was a bit stiff, and not as into bending, and at the end of the ride she was kind of dull and resistant, but nothing bad. I didn't worry about it, and chose to just work her lightly at the trot for a few minutes. I figure getting nailed in the shoulder might account for her slighty reluctance! We'll see how she is tomorrow.


  1. What a good girl!! Sounds like some awesome rides :)
    Too bad about the weather. It can be very frustrating,