Sunday, November 9, 2014

Flying Solo

Shar still wasn't feeling 100% today, and didn't want the jostling that horseback riding entails, so if I was going to ride, it was going to have to be alone.  But I've been wanting to see how she does alone, so it seemed as good a time as any.  First, I groomed her, and she did GREAT with her feet!  The practice is paying off!

Then we tried both the new saddles on Arya.  The leather one I bought on Craigslist (but can theoretically return to the seller) fit pretty well through most of the saddle, but sat pretty low on her withers.  Shar has a cutback pad, though (with a cutout for the withers), so we tried the saddle with the pad, and it actually brought it up far enough that it seemed to fit her quite well.  We tried the Cordura saddle (synthetic fabric--pretty durable, plus very lightweight, compared to leather) that I bought at the garage sale, and it fit pretty well too, including sitting a bit higher over the withers than the leather saddle.  The leather saddle had front and back cinch (plus a breastcollar) already attached, plus I needed to let the seller know whether I'd keep that saddle, whereas the Cordura saddle is mine regardless, so I decided to ride in the leather saddle today.

I got that saddle done up, and decided to go to the bathroom before lunging her and setting off on our ride together.  When I got back outside, Shar showed me her horse trailer--it had pivoted about three feet, with the hitch coming off the blocks and dragging through the gravel.  Arya had managed to get her halter caught on the carabiner just under where I'd tied her, and panicked and pulled back (again), dragging the back end of the trailer with her.  Shar got her unhooked safely (had to take her halter off, though!) before I even got outside.

So.  We headed to the round pen, and I lunged her a bit.  There were a couple times that she would NOT turn and go the opposite direction, so I really had to nag her and harass her to get her to turn, with Shar's encouragement.  (I'm too nice, and am likely to just give up, but you really do need to make the horse do what you asked, or they just learn that being stubborn gets them out of work.)  But eventually, and even with the neighbor dogs coming onto Shar's property and making a ruckus, she eventually did a lot better.  So it was time for me to get on.

I was nervous all over again, knowing that I'd be going solo, and in a new saddle to boot (I have new bits and bridles to try, but wasn't going to introduce THAT for this ride!).  But after one more adjustment to the stirrups, I got up and on her.  Rode in the round pen for a minute, at a walk and trying some lateral work, then headed out onto the property.  Did one turn around the circular drive, and headed for the driveway.  And then Arya locked onto a rock or something alongside the driveway and stopped and planted her feet.  With Shar yelling encouragement, I prompted her forward.  My legs were SORE from having to kick and prod her forward.  She'd take a step, then stop.  Then balk sideways.  Then take another step.  Of course I was nervous, but she doesn't do anything very stupid, so I trusted her.  And eventually she trusted me that neither the rock, the gate, nor the garbage cans were going to kill her, and she kind of squirted out the driveway, giving the garbage cans a wide berth.

Whew!  We'd made it out to the road.  To the stretch of road that even when we're with Shar and Flash, Arya seems to have a vivid imagination about, imagining all sorts of terrors in the mailboxes and culverts.  She always settles in after a bit, but seems most on edge about that stretch of road, even though it's the stretch she's spent the most time on.  Silly girl.

But she actually did fairly well.  She gave the side-eye to a couple rocks, the culvert (as usual), and a flag.  But once I had her trot, she had something more to focus on and did pretty well.  By the time we got to the yard with barking dogs, she barely even looked at them.  She got a little looky again on the stretch of road we'd never been on, especially the yard with some large abstract art made of what looks like a piece from an electrical substation, plus a yard with a big stump.  A STUMP!!

Anyway, we alternated walking and trotting, and she did great, especially considering how windy it was.  Then when we got nearly back to the driveway again (we just went around the large country block, a mile and a half), she stopped dead in her tracks.  I thought it was because of the trash cans again, but nope, she just had to poop.  When she finished, she headed right down the driveway without issue.  Yay!  Add another training project to the list, though--pooping while walking (and trotting).

Back in the yard, Shar and I checked how the saddle seemed to have fit her (fine), and played around with bridles and a bit.  My old bridle from Trigger (adjusted as small as it could go for him) fits Arya (adjusted as large as it can go), and at least at a standstill, she seems to like the snaffle bit her old owner loaned me to try.  Next ride, we'll try the new bridle and bit (or maybe at least the next ride from the property--if it's a ride we trailer to, maybe I'd bring the new one and switch after she's well settled in or something).

When I scoffed about how short our ride today was, Shar reminded me that it's more minutes or miles than I ever put on Trigger.  Good point!  Arya's a great horse and it's working out really well between us.

Here's a photo from our triumphant return:

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