Saturday, March 7, 2015

Yet another solo ride!

Showed up to see Arya today with a LOT on the agenda.  First, I had to groom my shaggy pony.  Then I had to try a couple of saddle trees on her and take photos of her from all sorts of angles for a long-distance saddle fitting.  Then I had to take photos of the saddle I'm trying to sell (MORE photos--I've already taken a bunch and posted them on Craigslist and all over Facebook).  Then I hooked up the leads of the heart rate monitor according to the instructions.  Then I'd run out of legit reasons to dawdle, and went to the bathroom.  :-)  When I came back, I put the bridle on Arya and the helmet on me, and really couldn't put it off any longer.

We headed off down the road.  Arya made a half-hearted attempt at her usual shenanigans of heading back home, but then did great at the "barking" dogs (who must've gotten a bark collar, because they were eerily silent yet again), at the turn she'd wanted to head home at before, and at the spot where the trail gets skinny-ish between a fence and a big pile of rocks and dirt.  She didn't even flinch or twitch an ear, just marched on through.

We started trotting occasionally, and she did great--I tried slowing her with my seat (posting slower), but when that didn't work, it was easy to slow her a bit with the reins when necessary.  I also worked on some things I learned in my last lesson with Celena--stopping her when she got too "forward" (concentrating only on the trail ahead of us and not on me), and also making her back a step or three before moving forward again.  She was a pro at this--she clearly remembered the lesson from last weekend, and easily backed (or even offered to back) when I stopped her.

At one point, she wanted to stop and rub her face on her leg, so I let her.  And when she brought her head back up, she'd managed to detach the rein from the bit, so I had just one rein.  So I hopped off quickly, re-attached it, and checked things over.  She had a little rub/cut on her cheek that looked like it was from the new nylon chin strap (purple!) I'd bought her.  Oops.  So I took that off.  Its main function is to keep the bit from pulling through her mouth if I was to pull really hard on just one rein, which I don't do, plus the D rings are pretty big to help prevent that, too.  So I told myself I'd just be careful.

When we got to the same place where she REALLY wanted to head home last time, she made her preference known, but didn't fight my effort to keep her headed away from home at all.  We took a different trail this time, and ended up at someone's unfenced arena where they had a platform and some other arena toys set up, but it felt weird to impinge on someone's personal space that way, so we headed off cross-country at a 90-degree angle to how we'd gotten there.

We went cross-country over a few "ridges" (little humped up areas of lava rock).  She really seems to enjoy going cross-country and choosing her own foot falls instead of just plodding down the trail.

We'd made pretty good time on our last solo ride, so I'd kind of had it in the back of my mind to try to go a little fast this time.  But this cross-country riding was slowing us down (can only walk on the loose sand full of large lava rocks).  When we found the trail, we started trotting more frequently.

The last time I cantered on purpose, Arya started bucking and I fell off.  So I've been a little (okay a LOT) hesitant to canter again.  But she was doing SO well today that I decided that the next good stretch of trail (really double-track ATV trail/road at this point), I'd give it a go.  She went faster and faster, and I let her.  She started cantering, and I let her (probably not the best way to go about it, but whatever).  One, two, three strides.  And I figured that was a good start, and tried to slow her.  She didn't WANT to go slower yet.  She tossed her head a bit, then did a couple hops.  Either she didn't "buck" as hard as last time, or my balance is improving, because I stuck with her.  Then she slowed down to a trot on her own (or I was clinging to the reins for dear life, which might've helped).  I looked at my heart rate monitor, and my heart was racing.  Heh.  (Hers never did work properly during the ride--not sure if I hadn't set the watch up right or what--she was sweaty enough she should've been conducting just fine).

So we stuck to trotting the rest of the ride.  Need to sort out the saddle fitting thing and have her teeth checked, and possibly a chiropractor before trying that again (oh, and lose weight...that might help, too!).

We did some pretty good trotting stretches, though, and felt like we made some decent time there on the sucker-end of the "lollipop" trail.

Then I "let" Arya choose which direction to head at a Y in the trail (not that Y up above though), and of course she chose to head home.  We did some more trotting stretches, except now she really didn't want me slowing her down, and would toss her head to try to keep me from holding the reins so tight.  I'd reward her when she stopped tossing her head by giving her less contact (though still keeping the reins short) and letting her go as fast as she wanted, within reason, though she didn't really try to run away with me (or to canter), so that part was fine.  But yeah, a little bit in a hurry but otherwise things went pretty well.

We crossed the paved road, and she really really really wanted to go home.  I'd already been thinking about this stretch of trail, and while we made good time on it on our last couple solo rides, I'd decided that this time we need to walk it so she didn't get in the habit of rushing home.  And I was even planning to turn her around at the top of the hill and make her go down it and back up it another time--got to get a good butt workout in, and the rest of the trail is pretty flat, so...

But Arya really really really wanted to go fast.  I tried stopping her and backing her, but she wasn't having any of that and started prancing around.  I tried getting her to back up and stand still, but she did NOT want to cooperate, so I eventually got off.  I didn't want that to mean her "winning," so I lunged her in circles and circles and circles around me, right there on the trail.  Even more chance to use the stuff I learned in my last lesson--we also worked on lunging without her invading my space.  She was FULL of energy, cantering around me even though I just wanted her to trot.  Wow.  Not sure what was up with that.  I walked down the trail, leading her, and hope that might cement the idea of us not going very fast.  She was docile as could be at the end of the lead.  I even stopped and backed her on foot, and she was totally cooperative.  So at the next opportunity (i.e. rock and slight hill), I got back on.  She pulled the EXACT same crap again.  I thought of trying to stick with it through the prancing, but she was REALLY obnoxious, so I hopped back off and we walked the rest of the way home.  Ugh, but I have been telling myself I need to do that every so often, and I had been planning to hike after I was done riding, so I guess I was just hiking sooner rather than later.  She, of course, was a perfect angel while walking.  Sheesh!

We were almost home when I saw a truck and horse trailer approaching, and I suspected it could be a friend who lives around the corner from Shar coming home from the play day she took her horse to, and it was.  So she stopped and we chatted for a bit.  That was nice!

When we got back, I needed a good chug of water (I'd had to ration mine the last little while), and Arya got one too (she stuck her face right in the water trough and just drank and drank and drank).  Then I took off the saddle so she'd be more comfortable (and not sweat quite as badly), but took her to the arena for another good workout.  She needs reinforcement that "home" isn't as awesome as she thinks it is.  So I lunged her in circles, more chances to work on those skills.  I had her go over a pole then through the barrel squeeze, which was still set up.  She did fine in one direction, but when I had her switch directions, she threw an unholy fit, bucking and galloping around at the end of the rope.  Apparently I should've worn gloves.  Ugh.  So of course then we had to keep going until she calmed down AND went through the squeeze.  She did, finally.  We did a few more circles each direction without the squeeze, then I unhooked the rope so she could roll if she wanted to.  She didn't want to--she wanted to EAT.

So I took her back to her pasture, where she DID roll, then eat some more.  The end.  :-)  Well, then I put away all the stuff I'd gotten out, met a gal to buy a pair of spurs (I've been borrowing some from Shar), stopped by Safeway to buy lip gunk because I hadn't brought any and was DYING, and then to Mexican for a splurge since I'd burned a bunch of calories and not eaten a whole lot yet.  Woo!

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