I want to preface this blog by apologizing for the lack of media - you'll quickly realize I was very busy talking, and didn't take a lot of photos.
Sierra and I took Sunday off after our 4th Field Trip of the year, but come Monday I was rearing to go back to the arena as I wasn't particularly satisfied with how we ended things on Saturday. If you missed it, on Saturday Sierra was very, very hot and worried. We managed to end the ride on a half decent note; straddling that line of having some expectation without pushing her into a complete frenzy. Upon dismounting and bathing, I tied her to the rails with a mash and she entertained the idea of it for about 5 minutes, picking through like a rebelling child before completely refusing to eat and occupying her time by playing her own orchestra titled "Pawing Shoes On Cement". Oy Vey.
The arena is only open from roughly 5:00 - 7:00 (or when ever staff get the evening chores done) on the week days so it offers a narrow window of time to use the facilities. Maybe I'm just slow, but I always find the idea of only having two hours particularly daunting, so I rushed home from town after I picked up my new tall boots (EEEK! Review coming later) to haul in.
I pulled into the barn just after 5:00 and as I was unloading a friend pulled in behind me with a trailer. I felt a slight ping of anxiety, disappointed I wouldn't have the arena to myself but shook off the thought and pondered the benefits to riding with a different horse. Traditionally, Sierra is typically fine with other horses around her as long as they don't come up close behind her at a faster gait with the intention of passing (race horse problem #938), but this particular friend is a Reiner so the different exercises, chinking of spurs, etc is all different and thus, a good opportunity to expose her to something different.
As we tacked up in unison, we chatted significantly - we hadn't seen each other in quite some time so we caught up while preparing our horses. She asked about the sale of Kidd, and she had recently sold a horse and was riding a new one who I hadn't met. She also had never met Sierra, so as the conversation flowed between people in our lives, families, vacations, training highs and lows and more, time flew by and it was well after 6:00 by the time we were mounting. With the concerns of time reeling in my head should Sierra decide to be a complete baffoon again, we both set off and the conversation subsided. I begin my rides with quite a lot of walk but after what felt like a sufficient amount of it, I proceeded to trot. Much to my surprise, Sierra, albeit a bit of a jarring transition, happily complied with the change and motored onward on the left rein while my friend was on a circle coming towards us from the opposite end of the arena. I felt as though it took me some time to get settled into my position given my new boots that felt quite 'slippy' against my saddle, but once I got a feel for them we were carrying on. One thing that I always find a little frustrating about riding with Reiners is how much time they spend on a circle, so when I wanted to go large or leg yield I had to plan ahead and time it well when I could sneak down into her circle to use more of the arena than just a 20m circle.
|Sneak Peak at my new boots!|
I had decided my plan for the day was to just try and establish some relaxation. I didn't have any particular exercises in mind and I didn't want to rock the boat or push any buttons. My only goal for the day was to put Sierra through her paces and try and keep her feeling confident and comfortable. While we changed direction in the trot on the circle onto the dreaded right rein, she remained steady and soft through the topline and contact, happily flicking her ears around as she listened intently to my requests while taking in her surroundings. On occasion when riding down to the far end she did bring her head up and gawk, but never came behind the leg or threatened to do her best rendition of a half canter pirouette to high-tail it to the other end. I changed back to the right and once I felt her trot was sufficient after the loss of balance in the change, I proceeded to Canter. Expecting the wheels to fall off, I was surprised when Sierra took the correct lead and Cantered onward. While there was some tension in her topline (something we've struggled with from Day 1), she was happy to Canter around and frequently asked "Can I stop now?" which served as a necessary reminder to keep.your.damn.leg.on. but given her reactions lately, I would much prefer those types of questions to "ima run off now, mkay?" I worked a little on her softening her topline and though it was a bit of a struggle, we transitioned quietly down to a trot where she promptly thought she would walk, so she got a bit of a kick and we trotted until she felt settled and consistent before changing directions for our right lead. Once again, Sierra took the correct lead and while she did break once after some time due to my lack of riding, I chose to keep her trotting and end our ride there.
|Sierra doesn't understand that it's not polite to stare|
My friend was finished at the same time, so although [for once] Sierra didn't even break a sweat, we walked around side-by-side chatting once more as our horses cooled out. It worked well because her horse is pretty quiet so we wound up walking down at the 'scary end' and Sierra was between her horse and the fence and took solace in the younger, but sensible little QH and quickly relaxed on the buckle. By now, it was well after 7:00 so I felt pressed to finish up, but it was evident the staff member had additional chores that were going to keep her late so I took my time giving Sierra a good brush before loading my tack back in my trailer for the twenty minute drive home. Sierra stood stock still, napping with a foot cocked the entire time.
As I lead Sierra out to the trailer, she quietly meandered on a loose lead beside me, loaded into the trailer and immediately began nibbling on the hay net that she refused to touch on our fourth field trip of the year. Naturally once on shavings, she took a pee so big it ran out the back of my trailer and I did my best to relocate shavings and shoot it out the back door; I hadn't closed the divider yet and she happily stood there munching on hay while I dealt with the monsoon she unleashed all over my trailer floor. Once cleaning it up, closing up the trailer and getting on the road home, I pondered how shortening my stirrups one hole has helped me in the Canter and we seem to have less issues with her getting hot and frustrated as I flounder around on her back trying to remain balanced. That being said, I am finding if I 'over ride' her on the right rein in the trot, things go to hell really fast. I'm making great progress in the trot, but I really need to carry that onto the Canter and stop anticipating a disasterous carnival ride to ensue. Anyone who's worked with a horse who is less than perfect can relate to the struggle of not quite knowing what kind of 'horse' you'll have that day, but I know that as each day passes, Sierra is making me a better, more capable rider. Perhaps I don't look perfect on a horse, but my understanding is really improving and I owe a lot of it to Sierra. After a tough year, we might finally be finding our groove.
We still have 1 or 2 more trips to the arena planned before the event on Saturday, but if she's even remotely similar to last nights ride, I think we have a chance at not making complete fools of ourselves!