Monday, February 9, 2015

Who knew relatively tame riding could be such a workout?

With predictions for 50% chance of rain, plus it being very windy, Shar and I opted to ride indoors this weekend.  It's something we've been meaning to do for a while--a friend of ours (actually, the mutual friend who introduced us) has an indoor arena, plus some outdoor trails and obstacles should the weather clear enough, so we've talked about hauling over there a few times, but finally got around to it this weekend.

We arrived, and unloaded by backing both Arya and Flash out of the trailer--both did very well--they're getting used to having to back out.  :-)  We tacked up (outside, and luckily it wasn't raining), and headed into the arena.  We hadn't been in there long when we could hear rain pouring onto the roof--good timing!  Arya is NOT the best-behaved in the arena.  She's much better on the trails.  I backed her up a couple times, then worked on trotting.  I tried not to nag at her too much for steering (she kept heading for the gate, though, and of course I had to steer her around the other riders in the arena), or even speed within the trot, but just work on maintaining the trot.  Which means allowing her to break back down into the walk, then immediately cue her back into the trot.  Sometimes she's more compliant than others.  But for a while there, she was NOT wanting to trot.  One of the other riders loaned me a dressage whip rather than the short crop I had (a dressage whip is longer, so I didn't have to take my hand off the rein to whap her butt).  So basically, I was near-constantly having to squeeze with my legs then whap with the whip.  She'd lurch into a trot, then slow way down while still barely trotting, then drop into a walk.  Squeeze, whap.  Ugh.  But she did improve--by the end, I was mostly able to squeeze her into a trot, and occasionally wiggle the whip within her field of vision to get her to trot.

We took a break and worked on moving her hind end over.  She kept wanting to go backward when I cued her to walk, after only having ASKED her to back up once or twice.  Sheesh.  But we got some good turns, worked on trotting some more, and then took a bit of a break.  Shar had brought her foal and wanted to let him roam around in the arena a bit, so the rest of us stopped to watch him follow her and Flash around.  That was cute.

We tied our horses up in some available spots and went to go check out Julie's new house--they had an apartment built in the upstairs of the barn/arena--where the viewing area and office had been.  It's really cute!  We hung out and chatted, then Julie's husband hollered that my horse was loose.  Yep, I'd only just looped the lead rope through the blocker ring (see below, my rope was just like in the picture), and she'd pulled it all the way through and freed herself.  But she's a smart cookie--rather than go wandering around where who knows what might happen to her, she settled down right behind where she'd been tied, munching hay that had spilled from a stall into the barn aisle.  I put her back, and actually tied a knot in the rope this time.  Poor girl...she'd nearly finished her breakfast when we loaded her into the trailer with a manger full of hay.  I'm sure she was starving half to death after her half-hour workout...  (yes, that's sarcasm)

We noticed that there was a break in the rain, and had wanted to check out the obstacles outside--good exposure for Ash, and I was curious to check out the water with Arya--I haven't had to ride her through water yet, though the prior owner assured me she'd done it plenty of times.  We mounted up, with Shar ponying Aschere (the foal) from Flash.

We started with just looking at a scary jump (the property used to have quite a cross-country course, and there are still quite a few of those jumps remaining--nothing I plan to ever take on!) and "squeezing" between it and a nearby tree, then went to the newly-built bridge.  I got Arya to at least put her front feet up onto it, while Flash and Ash just sniffed at the ditch under the bridge.  :-)  We went over some poles, went up and down a hill, and checked out another cross-country jump.  Then it was time to check out the water crossing.  It's a nice wide shallow pond with a decent bottom--it used to be sandy, but is probably now muddy, but at least you know it's safe--no holes or rocks to worry about even when the water gets too cloudy to see where you're going.

I had wanted to walk Arya straight over to the water, ahead of Flash and Aschere, and see how she did, but they managed to pass us on the way there.  Oh well, so much the better, right, she'll just follow her buddy right in?  Yeah, not so much.  Flash walked right in, Ash balked a little, but figured if his "Uncle Flash" did it so willingly, it must not be too bad, and walked in shortly after.  Arya, though, walked up close to the edge, put her head down, but started eating rather than showing any interest in the water, and would NOT move closer to the water.  I tried clucking, squeezing, kicking, and whapping.  I tried other angles of approach and other areas of approach.  I tried trotting her around the pond once or twice between attempts so calmly walking through the water would seem like less work to her.  We tried having Flash lead her in by example.  She was having NONE of it.  My legs were exhausted from all the squeezing and kicking.  My brain was exhausted from the mental and physical effort.  I was proud of myself, however, for not worrying about my balance throughout her antics--she did a lot of dancing side-to-side trying to evade getting into the water, and I never once felt like I'd fall off.  And she did a lot of head-tossing when I trotted her around the pond, ditto.

BUT, the turning of the hind end stuff we'd been working on in the arena paid off--she'd try to duck away from facing the water, and the first couple times, I'd try steering her back to the water using the reins, then I clued in that moving her hind end would be much more effective at keeping her pointed toward the water, and it worked!  So that was nice to feel, even while I was very frustrated with her antics.

Finally, Shar unclipped the lead rope she'd had attached to the baby's halter, and clipped it to Arya.  Arya was like, "Oh no, you didn't!"  She fought all the harder, but Shar held the rope tight, not letting Arya back up any further than she'd already advanced.  So whenever we got any forward movement at all, we'd release all pressure (my clucking, squeezing, kicking, whapping, and swearing as well as Shar's pressure on the rope) and just let her stand where she was for a minute.  I'd breathe deep and relax to try to show her it was NICE to be where she was.  Then we'd apply all that pressure again and wait for another sliver of forward movement.  Finally, she had her front feet in the water.  Good girl!  We let her think about it a minute, then urged her forward again.  Finally, she had all four feet in the water.  And she thought to herself, "Oh, this isn't nearly as big a deal as I thought it was!  Why was I fighting so hard?"  At least I hope she did.  She sniffed at the water, drank some water, and pawed at the water.  Then it seemed like she might be really interested in dropping down into the water for a good roll, so I got her moving.  I planned to walk her around in circles IN the pond for a bit, but she kept insisting that dropping down in the water would feel mighty good, so I got her back out of the pond pretty quickly, much quicker than she'd gone IN.

Shar recommended we NOT push it by asking her to go in again.  Let that "win" settle that fight for the day.  So we did a couple loops of the "poop trail"--a trail they lay down the composted manure/shavings on--it loops around the outside of the cross country course on relatively flat land, then also has a few criss-crossing loops up a hill in the "back 40" of the property--it's only about 0.7 mile to go all the way around both sections, but doing a couple of the hilly loops was good for the baby to experience, and gave the other two at least a little bit of exercise beyond the flat arena and pond work we'd been doing.

Aschere was trotting (and even cantering) along behind us (we were just walking, but he'd lag behind then catch up repeatedly), and Arya thought he was having entirely too much fun, so she tried nipping at him, which I quickly prevented.  Then he came up behind her one too many times and she started aiming to kick.  Shar quickly got the lead rope back onto the baby and kept him closer to Flash for the rest of our quick trail ride.  Baby's first trail ride!  Soon he'll be ready to pony with us on some longer rides!

So, all that squeezing and kicking left me with some VERY sore legs, and I wouldn't be surprised if Arya's got some bruises on her ribs this morning--I didn't have spurs on, but I was thumping her pretty good with my tennis shoes nonetheless.

We'll have to haul back to Julie's again sometime soon--I really hope Arya sees the pond next time and reminds herself that it was no big deal and definitely not worth fighting about, but we'll see...

Oh, and when we arrived home, the horses all had to spend a little time in the trailer before unloading, because Shar was rearranging who lived in which pastures and of course it made sense to sort out the horses who'd stayed home first.  They did very well, including Arya, who'd pitched such a fit last time she had to wait.  So yay for learning lessons!

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