Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Not a real post, but.....

7 consecutive rides with cantering!!

And Sofie is still holding strong. Today her frame, topline and way of going was the best and most consistent it has ever been at the trot. All I did was maintain an elastic connection and let her go forward, and we had real dressage happening! She did temporarily lose her mind when we worked on the canter (she's not fond of cantering in indoor arenas, and I have never practiced it with any consistency), but I just stayed calm and reminded her to stay straight and calm, and she came back to me very well.

Awesome pony!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Cantering Into Winter

We did finally get out to an off-site event this fall. A couple of boarders at the barn graciously allowed Sofie to ride along with their horses to a poker run trail ride at the nearby fairgrounds. She loaded up fine, trailered fine, waited patiently to come out of the trailer, unloaded calmly, and she went right to the grass and ate the whole time. I just tacked her up while she ate, then rode her around a little before the ride started. I rode her out to the neighboring fields just to make sure she wouldn't get herdbound, and she did fine.

The ride was quite fun, and Sofie went right to the lead and led most of the way! She loves to be the leader. I was incredibly glad for our gate practice over the summer, because it sure made it easier to sidepass her over to those buckets to get our poker cards! The poker run was quite short so afterward some of the riders opted to go for a second trail ride. Of course I was part of that group. Sofie wanted to lead again, so I had to school her a little bit and convince her that she could be in the middle, since there was no way to pass safely and I didn't want to be passing everyone anyway. She wasn't bad at all though. So much better, in fact, than many of the other horses at the ride! And the people on the craziest horses were of course not wearing helmets. Morons...

Back at home we have been getting out for as many trail rides as possible before winter comes. The fall colors were fleeting, but it's still beautiful out there. We've been on all our favorite trails, including the river trail. She's been happy to go exploring. Her dressage has been excellent. I will sorely miss having our hills to work her on when winter hits. There's nothing like that feeling when she engages and floats up the slope on her circles.

My mom has been joining us for trail rides lately, riding another boarder's mare, Mica. We had a great ride on a beautiful sunny Saturday and did lots of trotting on the trails. When we got to a good place for cantering, we cantered the horses, and the mares got very competitive. Sofie wanted to race Mica! She was determined to beat her, and when I pulled her up she shook her head, clearly frustrated. "I was winning, damn it!"

After seeing how competitive she was, and knowing how well she is doing, I decided to start cantering her more often. I've cantered her the past four rides in a row, and she's done fabulously. The first couple of times I asked for the canter, she was a little tense in the transition, a bit racey, and she threw her head a bit when I kept her going. She's not used to being asked to canter, simply because I don't do it often enough! But she's caught on quickly, and best of all, she has experienced no soreness. She's really in great shape. She feels good, is happy and shows no signs of slowing down.

Today it was quite brisk, but a beautiful day for riding outside. I rode her on one of the easy trails, trotting almost the whole way. Then on the way back, we turned onto the canter-friendly trail, and I asked for the canter. She did a perfect canter depart! She's certainly capable of great canter work, and she's done it before, but usually her best canter departs are voluntary. This was the best involuntary canter depart she's done in a long time! Her canter was very nice and springy, and she kept going when I asked, with no head flinging or resistance. She's starting to accept some connection when cantering, and I can begin to put her together a little more. We have NEVER had any connection in the canter, so that is very exciting!

Her down transition to the trot was not too jarring, and she was willing to stretch down to the buckle immediately after, none of this running around with her head in the air because OMG WE JUST CANTERED. I patted her a bunch, and we walked back to the barn where she got her usual postride massage and stretches.

She's been a very sound, very happy, snuggly horse lately, and I feel so grateful. I feel like she is actually going to be okay, like we've maybe gotten through the worst and that she will come out of all this on top and stay strong for the long term. Regardless, I'm very happy enjoying my horse in the here and now.