Friday, February 13, 2015

Sunset / Night Ride

Shar and I talked about riding on Wednesday, but stuff came up for both of us, so we postponed to Friday.  Better in a way, because I get off an hour earlier, so we had a little more daylight to work with.  I showed up, fetched my horse, and groomed and tacked her, including all our reflective night-riding gear.

I took her to the roundpen, but she was all up in arms about the changes to the arena and wouldn't focus.  Shar has been working hard all week on adding some obstacles to the arena--there's a flower box for the horses to step over, some ground poles, two barrels to squeeze between, and a "bridge" of sturdy timbers laying side by side.  Since she was so curious, and I'd been planning to take her there anyway, I took her over to the arena.

She was quite curious about the flower box, and it was directly in front of the gate, so we headed there first.  She snorted and snuffled, but walked right up to it and stuck her face into the fake flowers.  Like seriously, fabric petals all up in her nostrils.  Silly girl.  I had her walk over it a couple times, from each direction.

Then we went to the bridge.  She stepped up onto it with her front feet, no problem.  Getting her back feet onto it was a little more work.  First she wanted to rush over it, then she swung her back end wide to avoid her back feet even going onto it (she's not dumb, and the bridge is really skinny), but finally I got her to walk over it, stopping with each set of feet on it.  Woo!

Then over to the barrels.  She wasn't too worried about them EXISTING, necessarily, but wasn't thrilled about walking between them.  But she survived.

Then the ground poles.  I walked her over them.  Easy peasy.  But then I made her BACK UP over them.  That proved a little more mentally challenging for her.  She didn't seem to remember where they were, so she'd step on them, they'd roll, and then she REALLY wouldn't know where they were.  But she was smart and cool about it, and proceeded through without incident.

I took her back to the flower box, and got her to where she was straddling it with it between her front and back legs, then asked her to back over it (so only the fronts had to cross it, not the backs).  Not so bright on this one, she stepped ON the flower box, but luckily on a part with a cross piece so it didn't break or anything.  But she's getting very trusting about backing over stuff, so that's good.  (She was VERY reluctant the first time I asked her to unload backwards, and the first time we did exercises like this by backing over stuff in the arena).

I lunged her a bit, and tried to get her to go through the barrels, but that wasn't so successful.  Finally, we finished off by lunging in a couple circles, and she did well so we called an end to that and headed off on our trail ride.

Shortly into the ride, and I think after just one, maybe two trot sessions, we came to a puddle.  Well, what a convenient opportunity!  We'd just been working on crossing water, and here's a little puddle to try it out with!  Flash walked right into and through it, but Arya wasn't having any of that.  I urged her forward, and she'd squirt sideways.  But we kept at it, with me giving her a minute to think about things when she got closer, and finally she stepped into the water.  YAY!  She even DRANK the water (it was really dirty, and right in the road, so I said if she's dead in the pasture in the morning, we'll know why).  Then she pawed at the water, so we hurried on through.  GOOD girl!

Just then, the sun was setting and making a gorgeous sunset, more beautiful than the picture shows, but isn't that always the way with photos, especially taken on a cell phone?

We continued our ride--on a bit of single-track trail, then down the dirt road past the llamas.  Arya was curious, and hugged Flash a little closer, but was ultimately fine (this is our...third?...time past them, I think, and luckily we made it while it was still pretty light out.  We saw a deer, too, and Arya was on high alert but also fine with it.

We did some more trotting, and practiced "leap-frogging" (passing each other--good prep for endurance rides).  Arya barely tried to speed up at all when Flash passed us (us walking, him trotting), and just a gentle squeeze on the reins reminded her to just walk.  Then we trotted--she wanted to slow down (stop, even!) when we caught up to him, but I made her trot away.  By the third repeat or so, she was on to the game and easily trotted past him.  A time or two at a slow and steady trot, and a time or two even at a pretty good clip.  She even trotted past him going up hill, when I thought surely she'd try slowing down.  We crossed a paved road, rode along it, and saw more "scary" things (rocks, stumps, mailboxes, etc.), but Arya only veered around them,  never full-on spooked.  GOOD girl!

She even took the lead for a lot of the ride after the leapfrogging session--she's usually rather timid at the beginning, cowering behind Flash, but she started reluctantly leading (Flash walks SLOW), then confidently leading by the end of the ride.  GOOD girl!

We did have to work on not snagging bites while riding (I won a few, and lost a few, especially when we went through a ditch.  I prepared my body for the dip down then back up, but she went down then STOPPED, figuring having the food at face level was a good sign she should stop and take a bite), but overall it was a GREAT ride, with great company and a pair of great horses.

Tomorrow, I may try a solo ride, may just go hiking, or may not be able to get out of bed.  Sunday, lesson time, and Shar may be getting back on her youngster (not the foal--she has a green horse who's more than ready, physically, for riding, but his brain may or may not be all the way ready...we'll see!)

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