Welcome Home | First Ride Post Training

On Sunday, March 8th Sierra finally arrived home.  She had been gone since January 13th with my trainer CA, and it was quite an adventure to get her home.  Last weekend, my hubby and I set out to pick her up however unfortunately the treacherous roads forced us to turn back only an hour and a half away from home.  Luckily for me, there was a shipper coming through the following week so I hired them to bring Sierra.  Initially I thought she was arriving on Friday because I looked at the wrong calendar - then discovered it was actually scheduled for Saturday.  Friday and Saturday a huge storm rocked the area yet again, and they pushed the trip to Sunday.  Sierra was loaded around 1:30 PM and expected to arrive by 8:00 PM, however due to various pick-ups and drop-offs and a naughty horse who, funnily enough refused to get OFF the trailer she didn't arrive until 11:30 PM.  

It made for a late night, but Sierra unloaded well despite 10 hours riding at the back of the bus - no doubt, a bumpy ride.  The shipper said she was absolutely excellent and gave no issues despite having to be loaded and unloaded a few times and was a pleasure to have on board.  When we unloaded her, I noticed she was very veiney but seemed happy to be on solid ground - I took her into the indoor and tied her up to remove her bandages and stable blanket and had prepared offerings for the queen to which she happily dug into with vigor.



The barn had been closed several hours so I had the place to myself, but was in desperate need for sleep so after she finished her mash of Alfalfa Cubes, Beet Pulp and Comfort Gut and removing her clothes I turned her loose in the arena to stretch her legs and have a roll.  She rolled and promptly power-walked back to me, begging for cookies.  She seemed pretty wound up but I expected that after the day she's had.  As I rubbed her face, I noticed a large, bony lump above her right eye but it didn't seem to bother her.  I sent CA a photo as she was waiting to hear from me to ensure Sierra arrived and was in good condition.  She was confident it wasn't there when she loaded her, but I'm really not too concerned.  Its hard, cold and her eye seems completely fine - it doesn't bother her in the least to be poked and prodded, but I will keep an eye on it regardless.  There's no sign of a cut or injury to the area, and it's very possible she bonked it in the trailer.



She was a bit agitated so I threw her winter blanket on and set out in the dark to turn her out into her pen. She's in the same pen she was before she left however there are currently only two quiet recipient mares who keep to themselves now and Sierra went straight to the rolled-out round bale, but her wary legs kept her power-walking around the large 200 x 200 paddock, stealing bites of hay as she walked.  She found her way back to the automatic waterer and at that point, I decided to head back to the barn to clean up and head home before her aimless wandering gave me an ulcer.

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On Monday, I was filled with a mix of emotions as I watched the clock slowly tick by before I could head to the barn after work.  My excitement was met with nervous anxiety and I really had no idea what to expect - all I knew is I hoped she was more relaxed than she had been the night before.  I told myself she was just wound up from travelling all day, but part of me wondered if this was a new type of temperament for her.

I arrived at the barn and it was hovering around zero degrees and Sierra had her heavyweight winter on - she met me with perked ears and mostly-closed eyes as she leisurely chewed hay nearly asleep.  Between her long day, late arrival and the warmth she seemed ultra sleepy so I peeled her neck piece back to allow some airflow to her skin, and began to lead her in after inspecting her lumpy eye. We made our way across the outdoor arena at a snails pace.  Once we were about half way to the indoor, she woke up a little and by the time we got inside she seemed much more lively, but was still being the absolute most precious queen she is.  She wasn't really sweating under her blanket, but she was definitely warm.  



I had been a bit worried lately as the arena has been fairly busy with people legging horses up for spring but much to my surprise, it was an absolute ghost town.  All the indoor horses were outside - something that previously would have concerned Sierra but she stood happily and relaxed tied to the rail with a foot cocked most of the time.  I was blessed to not see another soul until well after I dismounted, with the exception of a friend and fellow-boarder who quickly stopped in half way through my ride to ensure I was still alive and to strip her horses blanket off for a few hours.  It was both nerve wracking and enjoyable - I was already nervous to get on Sierra and now to do so with no one else on the property was concerning, but on the other hand it meant no one was there to witness me riding like a total boob.  Not schooling a horse in nearly 10 weeks is a valid excuse, right?



Prior to my arrival, I had no idea if I was going to ride.  Our saddle fitter is coming up on Wednesday as Sierra's shape has changed so much my saddle no longer fits her and I knew I needed to get on her at least once before then, but I still had my reservations about riding.  I had some concerns about the lump above Sierra's eye after speaking to my body worker who felt it may be a bone bruise, and when I checked it when I caught her she was definitely a little less interested in having it touched. It was still hard and lacking heat or swelling and her reaction to my pressure was minor but still noted.  Given how wound up she was the night before I considered just lunging or doing ground work, but she was so relaxed in the arena I decided to chance it and began to tack up with the goal of a light ride of just getting her moving and stretched out.



I'm not putting much stock in the ride as a whole as it was just once and I prefer to evaluate my satisfaction with her training over the span of several, but overall I was very happy.  There were some major improvements in some areas, and some areas that I will tweak to suit me but I truthfully don't believe you ever send a horse away for training and have them come back absolutely perfect for you.  Everyone rides a little different and has different expectations, and I knew that when I sent her away, she could come back nearly perfect, absolutely awful, or anywhere in between.  If I had to base my opinion off this one ride, I would say she's definitely on the high side of the scale, flirting with the rating of "Nearly Perfect".



I am insanely out of shape and riding with a new center of gravity thanks to (SPOILER) Mrs. Bean in my belly, I felt incredibly sloppy but Sierra felt as though she was saying "it's okay mom, I got this".  She genuinely seemed to take care of me and make up for my lacking timing, feel and athleticism and it was really wonderful.  Man, I love this mare and how hard she works for me.  She felt far more confident and happy in her work - her ears often softly perked forward as she took in her surroundings and did her best to listen to my jumbled, muffled aids.  I got tired very fast and feeling my uterus literally moving plus an excited baby beeboopin' around in my belly felt so weird I can't explain it, but I pushed on with minimal breaks for a ride that totaled just under 30 minutes including our cool down.

Sierra gave me an incredible feeling in the trot - the entire ride felt what I often explain as that "double bounce" feeling where they feel so supple and connected through the back that it almost bounces you back out of the saddle in the down-phase of posting, and she felt like far less work to get forward in the trot.  Any time she felt like she sucked back to look at something I would simply close my leg, give a cluck and she would surge forward without necessarily getting faster, just bigger and it was incredible.  I rode her in a bit she's never gone in before (KK Ultra) and I can't say that I think she loved it, but she felt good in the bridle on the left and a bit iffy on the right but I'm sure that's 97% me as that's my bad way and it was compounded by me being out of shape to make matters worse.  I have a new bit enroute in the mail that I think she might really like, now that our flexible Trust bit isn't working for us.



The canter was disastrous - Sierra was lovely and after watching the video (that I wont dare share, lol) I felt so bad for her.  When I decided to Canter, I was so exhausted I literally told myself "just do one or two circles each way and you can stop" - which is absolutely terrible of me, lol.  She was literally saying "mahm, wtf are you doing up there" while I was stiff and trying to get her to come through into a very rigid contact without her being forward or engaged at all.  This is on 100% me and I can see myself ruining things very fast if I don't get my shit together, so I need to be really diligent about getting her flowing forward first.  Oops - she got extra pats.  Her canter transitions felt huge and her canter itself felt like there was way more 'hang time' which was really neat but I know I can very easily ruin it, so I have some serious homework to do.

I missed this hilarious patch of dark hair that grows faster and darker than everything else.  What can I say, she has character inside and out.
The only thing I didn't really love was that once I even thought about trotting, Sierra was trying to trot off without being asked.. then every time we walked after we trotted, unless I was at the buckle she wanted to trot or jig.  Additionally, when I got on she tried to walk off which is a big no-no for me.  Truthfully, none of these are "omg i'm livid" type things, but certainly things I will address over time.  While they may be one-time things, I noticed in some video with CA she was a bit jiggy in the walk breaks so I expected it and over time we will work out the kinks and find our happy medium!

Overall, I was absolutely thrilled - not only to just have her back home but to have had a lovely first ride back.  You don't realize how much you miss that connection with "your" horse until it's gone (and back again!).

She'll get a bath later this week and i'll touch up her clip, but she's pretty nekid!

CA is up for a clinic next weekend (14/15) so I have a lot of work on myself to do before then.  Sierra seems to like the break from strenuous, professional riding - she wasn't even breathing heavily after our 20 minute ride and when I got off, she looked at me like "That was a lovely warm up, mahm". She's fit AF, that's for sure.. back to the spoiled life of luxury for her! Although, I clipped through her very, very dirty coat afterward which certainly pulled at times and she was less impressed with me after that.

She looks clean, but she was not. My poor clippers, and 10 points to her for tolerating me clipping through her half-caked, sticky coat from old, dried sweat.
My goal is to find the balance of not ruining all CA's hard work, while molding her into my type of ride. CA is a competitive, upper level Jumper and likes her horses hot and prompt. While I like prompt, I only want it when I ask for it so I feel like I need to instill some more relaxation without losing the forward and suppleness. Oy Vey. I have a lot of work to do (on myself) and it will be tough to remain diligent but I am so grateful and glad I sent her away for training to fill in the holes I struggled with seeing previously.  Hindsight is 20/20!

Comments

  1. You both look good in that video! I would never have guessed you'd taken 10 weeks off from riding.

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    Replies
    1. Well that's assuring, lol! Between being 5 months pregnant and incredibly out of shape, I felt awful!

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