Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Down to Business

Soaking in the sunshine. Spud is hiding beneath one of the many
low hanging boughs.
The next two rides I put on Annie suffered much less Spring-induced craziness and above all else, I was able to ride in the outdoor arena for the very first time this past Saturday! Looking back at my old posts, ring riding wasn't really feasible until the end of April, so we are well ahead of schedule and boy was I happy to be able to ride somewhere other than the subdivisions roadway!

On Thursday, my scheduled class was a very short lecture, so I opted to head out and ride Annie right afterwards. I had wanted to take her out alone, considering the last two rides were a bit, erm, spicy. Nothing terrible, but 10x harder to minimize antics and 10x more awkward due to dragging along a certain non-conforming potato.

Annie was much more level-headed and we were able to play around with some trotting where the soft shoulder allowed. I did have to give her a few very firm half-halts so she'd stop flailing her legs around and find a rhythm, and once she settled into a pace and let her topline relax a bit, it was really lovely. We played with some leg yielding and baby shoulder-ins and she was really receptive to both, and we even had one of our best leg yields in a very long time.

She always looks like she has suffered an immense amount
of abuse post-ride. Thanks for looking so happy, Annie.
Because my one eye was bothering me (it felt like there was something in it for most of the day), I decided to cut the ride short and loop back down one of the streets to double back the way I had come.
When we came to the dirt road, I asked for a walk-canter, and she picked up the wrong lead. Brought her down and asked again, wherein Annie expressed some #feelings, but picked up the right lead like the good little mare she is. We bounded down the road and I let her kinda pick her way, as there are quite a few potholes so we jumped a few and then flailed over a few others. She felt kinda rigid in her body tho - kinda like cantering along on a tank vs an athletic appendix, haha. She came to a brisk walk when requested and we carried on home.

One of the last final stretches, I decided to push my luck a bit and ask for her left lead on the shoulder. She acquiesced and I spent some time asking her to round over her back and find some rhythm. It took a business-like half halt "Hello?! I am up here still!" and then we had a very lovely canter. She earned extra carrots for that!

Annie: "Just gonna ignore you, thanks."
I put her up for the night and decided to torture myself further by doing more Spring cleaning poo picking. I didn't realize what time it was until I noticed the sun had gone down and the pasture was getting dark. When I checked my watch it was 8:30pm, oops!

On Saturday, N was home again so we met up mid-morning to go riding to the ring since we had both spied it was free of snow. I brought Spud again, feeling like this ride would have less theatrics from both ponies (Spoiler: I was right!).

On our way to the grounds, we ran into another rider and her mare. We stopped to chat a bit and Annie was offended because we had places to go and people to see. Aside from rudely ripping her reins from me on several occasions, she stood mostly still and cast forlorn glances down the road. Oh, poor suffering soul that she is.

The ride to the ring was mostly uneventful, although I had heart palpitations and flash backs to last January when I broke my nose. Some sections of the trail were still quite icy, and a few puddles that had formed were quite deceptive in that the ground beneath the water surface was still a sheet of ice. We skirted around most of it, and no one died, thank god. Where the sun shone through the trees, the ground was very soft. The horses churned up a good deal of mud and muck, and Annie staggered once or twice when her hoof was sucked up by an innocent looking section of trail. We made it through tho, and as the days continue to warm up and things thaw, the trail will firm up and be just fine to ride regularly.

No ring-media. But here is our cool out ride home!
Bloodhound.... or Appendix??

The ring had one small patch of snow left, but otherwise was clear. What a sight to behold!

Unfortunately tho, due to all the melting snow, the ring was still retaining a lot of water. We had to stick to the North end of the ring where the footing was much more favorable (the South end has a shadow created by the show office and the sun does not hit that spot just yet). N and her horse stayed down at the South end with Spud, as I had tied him there to wait.

Annie was pretty good for her "first" ride back - it took a few minutes to get her engaged and thinking. We didn't really do anything fancy - just a quick walk, trot, canter with some circling. Some rising and sitting trot.... playing around with some stretching. Above all else tho, I didn't really focus on anything other than finding our tempo and relaxation in the ring. Our transitions were straight up bad but I just kept moving along, encouraging her to bend and move off of my seat and leg. We haven't schooled regularly since October, and much like our ride earlier this month, I wanted to keep it simple and easy. Mare isn't fit and neither am I - it wouldn't be fair to expect the level of work we had accomplished in October to suddenly be possible a few rides into the season.

I knew that the few things I was asking would be enough tho, as I quickly found we had minimal steering and any left hand turns I requested were met with quite a bit of resistance. We nearly collided with the fence twice simply because Annie wanted to join her friends at the other end of the arena.

Yah, not gonna happen mare.

We did have some really beautiful moments tho - she settled into herself and started to let me manipulate the circles, adjust her striding, and tolerated my bouncing during the instances of sitting trot. I gave her plenty of stretch breaks, encouraging her to eat the ground beneath her while really letting her neck out and down.

We take our training srsly.
(Spy Spud at the bottom right corner).
Things at the trot felt good, almost pre-winter hiatus good! So, we moved into the canter, and Annie happily showed me her flying changes every time our circle started edging closer to where the other horses were. While I was happy at the athletic capabilities we certainly did not have a year ago, I kindly asked her to remain on the right lead.

She responded by flailing herself into an angry fit of cross-firing when I refused to let her have her shoulder to switch her front over. I just kept riding it, giving her a little jab with my outside leg and a slight raise of the inside rein. She grumbled and then relented.

And suddenly we had a beautiful canter with steering.

Imagine that.

After a few good laps of canter, I brought her down, gave her all the good pony pats. Before quitting completely tho, we revisited some sitting trot and she felt fantastic. I kept reminding myself to keep her even in both reins like Anthony had drilled into my skull for all of 2018, and it felt really, really NICE. I cursed myself I didn't get N to take a video - comparisons are always fun.

After a few 20m circles, we quit on that note and began the trek home. Annie was pretty sweaty and tired, and in that moment I was happy we had a 20min walk ahead of us home. As much as it is a pain how far away the ring is, it allows for a lot of warm up and cool out time, which is so beneficial.

Overall, I was really pleased with our first school in the outdoor. The little objection she showed was quite minimal and easily corrected, so I am looking forward to our next school to build upon that foundation we had laid over the last two years. Of course, fitness comes first and we will slowly build our way back up again! Riding season has officially begun!


  1. She sounds like she's starting this year as much more mature horse!

  2. So glad you guys are back at it! And so much earlier than last year! Sounds like Annie is really maturing and remember her lessons from last year. It should be a fun summer!

  3. Glad you had a good first school! The ground here has been alternately saturated and frozen, so I relate to that frustration. Also, is there anything worse than eye irritation? Ugh!

  4. Funny how changes in light can trick you into working longer haha

    Glad the first school in the outdoor went well overall!