Monday, November 21, 2011

Start Of Winter Rides

The winter has been mild so far, with cold temperatures but little snow. I’ve been riding mostly in the indoor, but I did get out on one clear, cold, slightly blustery day. Sofie was a little silly and spooky on the trail, but we wandered around the valley and the surrounding area. I did a little dressage work in the valley, which went nicely, and once again I had her canter for a short distance. I also stayed on her back when we rode down the hill to the valley, and she managed. By the end of the ride I felt that I’d tested her and definitely stretched her, but not to the point of overkill. I wanted to give her a definite workout that day as I didn’t anticipate getting out again for three days.

The weather turned out not to be hideous that week, so after giving her the customary day off I enlisted my dad to take me out there again. I had been on the fence about going, but I was glad I did. It was a cold day, but I felt happy being at the barn and when I walked out into the field to catch her she looked up and started walking up to me. We met halfway and she was very sweet, sniffing my hands and definitely warming the atmosphere. I don’t know if she just wanted to go in the barn for a while, but it was still very touching.

I needed to be efficient with my time that day, so I did a quick grooming and made it a bareback ride. I feel very comfortable on her bareback by now, and we did our usual walk-trot work without a problem, occupying the indoor with the 17-hand Fourth Level horse and looking very scruffy and lighthearted in comparison. I only had time for a half hour ride, but Sofie did everything I asked and remained pretty agreeable, only showing a little reluctance when cued to trot. I’ve learned how to post bareback, which is helpful, but my butt bones landing on her spine will probably never make her react with glee. It was a productive ride, at least enough to get her creaky self moving, and I enjoyed seeing her that day.

She had two days off before our next ride. The day was nice enough that I would’ve ridden outside, but burning brush piles were making the air smoky and I didn’t particularly want either of us breathing that in. So, back to the indoor it was. I saddled her this time, wanting to have more freedom with speed and the ride’s duration. I did ride without stirrups for almost the whole hour, though, and I felt quite balanced (and not fatigued).

The ride started out quite well. She stayed on the rail nicely without needing too many reminders, and she was far better tracking left, not trying to dive off the rail. Our straightness was good (for us) and when I practiced picking up the reins she stayed steadier. At the start of trot work, she was a little inverted (better tracking left, worse on the right) and she wasn’t paying attention in the down transitions (and was definitely inverting during them). I did some fairly rapid walk-trot-walk transitions, and tried to keep her connected, and she improved. We had some nice transitions, and she was rounder in the trot.

Once I got her all warmed up and going nicely, I decided to test the canter. I knew it would ruin what we had, but I was curious to see if she would pick it up in the indoor (and if it affected her soundness). So I rode her a bit more forward and asked for the canter. She did an almost-depart, so I praised her and tried again. On the third try, she picked up the canter and kept going for several strides before breaking to the trot. I was satisfied with that effort, so I began attempting to relax her again. She settled down pretty well right after she came back to the trot, but for a while afterward she intermittently inverted, rushed and became defensive. I had trouble settling her and getting her to really relax. She would come round and then start anticipating the canter and throw her head up. Her back would be stiff as a board, too. It was frustrating, and I did get a little grabby with my hands a couple times (and grumble to her also). I’m not entirely happy with how I reacted, but I wasn’t too unkind to her and I did eventually get her settled. It’s annoying when she gets so tense and anticipates like that, but it’s just something we need to work on and we will probably get past it in time. Next time I will not succumb to frustration, and I’ll try to remember to relax her by patting her neck.

As I wrapped up the ride, Sofie gradually regained her relaxation and roundness. She did have some crabby, defensive moments, particularly through this one corner, tracking left. It’s possible that her shoulder was a little ouchy at that point. I don’t know if she’s ready to canter at this point, but that’s why we test these things out. I will have to see how she is next time, and we may stick to walk-trot work for a while longer. I’m definitely encouraged by how we started and ended the ride, though. I finished up with some nice transitions and halts. She was reaching nicely into my hand, and she trotted through the “crabby places” without a fuss.

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