Eating Crow

I've been avoiding updating my blog for a variety of reasons, but they primarily revolve around not having much to document.  Looking back at my riding tracker, I rode fairly regularly in June, then only once in July and three times in August.  Due to both my husband and I working full time jobs plus owning an operating farm, it left very little time to ride during that period - plus we took a break and went on holidays for nearly 3 weeks!  Since returning, I rode a whopping four times in September.  That being said, i'm happy to say I have been riding quite a lot this past month (October) and I have arranged a winter boarding situation so I can keep up with it.

I rode Sierra consistently for about 1 week then lent her out to an acquiantance for a clinic that I organized, as her horse came up lame.  The clinic was a 2-day Jumping clinic at the local indoor, and though I hadn't jumped Sierra since I bought her, I thought things would go well - boy, was I wrong.

Two days before the first lesson, I jumped Sierra one handed while taking a video. I haven't jumped in years, and it makes me nervous.  Sierra was fabulous, and didn't put a foot wrong - she was adjustable, forgiving and confident while still being very attentive to my requests.  Given that ride, I was confident Sierra would be fabulous and steal everyone's hearts at the clinic, like she has stole mine.  Unfortunately I miscalculated just how sensitive Sierra is, while overestimating the friends suitability to Sierra.  While my friend is a confident and lovely rider, she is used to a very different type of horse and tends to ride fairly 'heavy' - something Sierra does not appreciate.  She rode her in one lesson and as the instructor put it, "Sierra is incredibly offended by your riding".  Sierra, for the first time since i've known her, tried to pile said rider multiple times and succeeded in that twice.  Luckily the rider wasn't very shaken and got back on every time, and appreciated the learning opportunity.  I'm still in stock, but looking back every time Sierra had a 'blow up', it was a direct reaction to something said rider did (sit down hard, pull back, etc).  I don't feel like i'm a particularly 'soft or quiet', but I suppose Sierra and I have a mutual understanding.  I've said it before and i'll say it until I die - it takes a certain kind of person to get along with a Thoroughbred. They're different, and once you're on the same page they will give you 110%, but getting to that page can be a difficult journey.

Sierra's back was sore after the first lesson, so I asked my friend to ride a different horse for her second lesson. I felt bad pulling her, but ultimately my horse is not a lesson horse and making her go through that traumatic experience a second time was not worth it.  On the second day of the clinic, our Body Worker was doing Magnawave and Adjustments on horses so I brought Sierra in to hang out and be worked on and pampered.

Through the three rides at home, Sierra was an absolute nightmare. It felt like all the trust she and I shared was gone, and she was incredibly hot, upset, nervous and scooty - all things she has very rarely showcased since I bought her in June.  Looking back now although it's early to say, I think a lot of it was risidual trauma to the lesson with my friend so I went to the drawing board and most signs pointed to being uncomfortable and/or in pain. I had been questioning my saddle fit for some time, and that was my first thought when I sat back and thought about what could be causing these sudden outburts of kicking out, reluctance to go forward, incredibly tense through her back, etc.  When I bought Sierra she was very fit and my saddle fit great, but she has since lost a lot of her topline due to not being exercised consistently, and as such my saddle is now sitting a little wide and jamming into her shoulders despite the cutback panels.  While I would love to spend $300+ to have my saddle adjusted to her, I hope this will be a temporary problem due to riding consistently again and have chose to play with some padding in the mean time to get us by for now.
The first day that I played with some padding (note: albeit a little redneck, no bows work GREAT!) and got on with low expectations.. much to my surprise, Sierra felt absolutely fabulous once she realized it wasn't going to hurt and she felt just like her old self!  5 days prior I had set trot and canter poles on a very large circle but it was evident that in my rides after setting them she was nowhere near capable of doing pole work so they sat there essentially untouched.  Given that she was finally feeling back to herself, I chose to do the trot poles, but skipped the canter poles, as the Canter still wasn't quite as supple or elastic as I would have liked. I chose to just canter large and on some larger circles and call it a day . I'm not entirely sure she's seen poles on a bend, as they seemed to really confuse her - she would come up to them, wiggle a little, then try and take them while going straight despite them being on a bend. While it was a little comical, it showed me what a fabulous exercise it will be for her. 

The following day, Sierra felt a little more hot but was much more supple and malleable and I chose to attempt the tricky exercise of the poles on the circle.  For those unfamiliar, there are 4 trot poles on one side of the circle, and two canter poles on the other side.  After you come off the trot poles, you pick up Canter and then break to trot after the Canter poles, etc... So you are essentially doing 2 transitions on each circle, and it comes up really quick -especially on a green horse.  I chose this exercise for 5 reasons... 1: Stretch and engage the hind leg, 2: prompter transitions, 3: See how she handles the quick transitions, 4: Work on our leads, 5: See how she handles the challenge as I knew there would be mistakes that had to be fixed efficiently.  While all the transitions got her a little revved up, once she understood the task she was excellent.  She tried really hard to get to the Canter poles and remained very ridable throughout.  Because I haven't jumped her (or jumped regularly in years), I'm really not familiar with her stride when there is a potentially dangerous obstacle in front of us so it was a great challenge that left us feeling accomplished.  Many times I chuckled at her attempts to the Canter poles even if she didn't hit them right and kind of stumbled through due to not coming in on the right stride, and I think any ride where you're laughing is a darn good one.  On the left lead, we hit the poles correctly every time but on the right we seemed to always come in off-stride.  After 3 messy attempts I chose to be a little more active and make a decision - sit and hold for short and bouncy, push for longer, or cut the corner.  For sake of playing with her adjust-ability and remaining relaxed and 'ok' with me piloting, I chose all three - all of which she responded to very well.  I gave her a big pat and ended our ride, noting my tracker said I had only been on about 28 minutes.  Upon untacking, I questioned if my rigged up no bow was placed properly and it appeared to have left some dry spots this time, but in hindsight I think I had it a little too forward.  Regardless, it was significantly better than before adding the extra padding, and Sierra gets today off in light of me having a mild medical procedure.  

A friend put up a (very) small unheated indoor and offered me a paddock for less than it would cost me to haul into the indoor on decent weather days, so this weekend I am taking Sierra there to board.  The indoor is only about as long as my arena is wide and is about half that in width so we will be limited on exercises but it's a place out of the wind and snow, and it's a space to ride for 20 minutes or so through the winter to keep us in relative fitness.
One of the other reasons I was holding off on updating my blog was the lack of media I have so I got more, then managed to delete EVERYTHING OFF MY PHONE, so I apologize - all you get is words!

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