Friday, June 12, 2015

SAR, Day 1

So, Arya and I are all signed up for a weekend clinic with Celena, the trainer we've had a few lessons with (both with Shar and Flash and solo).  So Shar hauled Arya over there on Thursday, and the poor thing had to spend the night all alone in a round pen with no one to help her eat the hay.  ;-)  Actually, poor Emma was apparently beside herself when Shar returned with the empty trailer and Arya never emerged from it.  Wonder if she'll ever settle down before Arya gets back again.

Anyway, so Arya settled in with her food on Thursday, and I went to check on her, and I have to admit, just show up so she wouldn't think she'd been moved there without my permission or something.  I dunno, just wanted to show up that first day to reassure her.  Didn't ride Thursday.  But Friday, I get off work early, so more daylight, more time to ride and still get home at a reasonable hour, I decided to ride.  Celena was planning to ride that night, but a little harder core than Arya and I are ready for, so decided to go solo (unless anyone else wanted to join me, but no one did).

I tacked her up, and she was actually a little "dancier" than usual.  But usual is tying her to the trailer, and this time she was tied in the pen she'd called home for a little over 24 hours, though it was still a relatively "strange" place for her, so whatever.  Walked her down to the arena (down a small hill).  Celena had set up some trail obstacles ("car wash" of pool noodles dangling down over a "bridge" of railroad ties, plus a tarp to simulate a water crossing, also bounded by railroad ties; both obstacles also had pinwheels spinning in the breeze).  But first, there was a stray pool noodle on the ground, so I picked it up and batted it around her, whapping her on the body, legs, and eventually her face.  She barely batted an eye.  I asked her to step over it, and she did.  I asked her to step up onto the bridge with the pool noodles dangling over it, and she hesitated a bit, but then did.  And rushed right off of it again!  So we practiced a few more times, eventually stopping at various points along it until she was able to be nonchalant about it, including the pinwheels, which she minded far more than the noodles.

The next one, the square of railroad ties with a green tarp with swirling lines spray painted on it, PLUS with pinwheels and pool noodles in the corners, was MUCH more concerning.  She pawed at the railroad ties a few times, tentatively stepped in and back out, and eventually got both front feet in.  She got a break and some praise for that, then when she rushed out, I made her do it again and again until she could do it calmly.  This obstacle was right next to a pen with a mom and new-ish baby foal.  The foal came running up to check us out, and was totally cute, then the mom came over and made the baby get away from the scary human and weird big horse.  :-)

The third obstacle was just jump poles with one end (staggered as to which end, so they kind of formed an X if you looked at them from straight on near ground level) put up onto a barrel.  She's not scared of them at all, but not the most graceful, either--she just lets her legs bang into them.  Sheesh.

I took her into the arena, showed her the sprinkler (not on) and hoses while I was still on foot (no other "obstacles" in there this time), then led her to the wall to use it as a mounting block (arena is set into the side of a hill, so has retaining walls on both the uphill and downhill side--uphill side is handy for mounting).  Now, in retrospect, maybe I should've set us up for success by mounting near the "exit" of the arena, but I didn't realize she was THIS "gate" sour (no physical gate to this arena, just the area where we usually exit).

I put my left foot in the stirrup, and transferred my weight.  She started to move, so I just kept my weight over the saddle without swinging my right leg over.  She kept dancing around, and I kept trying to stop her with just one rein.  Eventually, I realized the saddle was slipping, so I had to drop out of the left stirrup before I was in a real pickle.  So I had to un-buckle the girth and re-buckle it again, then try again to get back on.  This time, I swung a leg over faster so she didn't have as much time to prance and dance, but she still walked off while I was mounting.  NAUGHTY girl.  So our first order of events for tonight's ride would be standing still.  I finally got her to stop, and she'd start moving again right away.  So it took a while, but eventually she stood still for like 30 seconds, so I grabbed a drink from the water bottle in my pommel pack, which caused my whip (which I'd put in the "cupholder") to drop to the ground.  Eh.  I wasn't going to get back off, so I'd have to come fetch it later and ride without it for now.  So anyway, I let her start wandering around.  She gravitated toward the "gate," so I steered her away (with some effort and much side-winding!).  We wandered around a bit, me trying to "show" her that the gate area wasn't so great, and wasn't this spot over here a nice spot to stand still?

Finally, when I figured she was thoroughly bored out of her skull, we left through the "gate" and headed for the trail.  I'd only been on this trail once before, during a lesson with Celena, and hadn't had the BEST experience.  At one point, the trail went alongside a pasture, which housed a stallion, who wanted to show off for the pretty lady (aka Arya), so he pranced and danced in the pasture, and Arya got all prancy and dancy on the trail, and I didn't love it but Celena talked me through it.  So we marched up the long hill, then along the flatter trail just fine.  As we got closer and closer to the pasture, I kept telling myself to breathe, but could tell I was tense.  I'd physically force myself to relax, then instantly be tense again.  Ugh.  So of course she got all antsy by the time we got near the pasture.  The horses in it today completely ignored us, but Arya's head, neck, and ears (and body) were on high alert anyway.  So I figured it was a good spot to turn around, and did so.  She actually wanted to keep going forward (rare for her--maybe she thought home was that way?  it's not!), so I made her stand still for a few seconds, then we set off in the direction I wanted to go (back the way we came).  She got antsier and antsier, though we were leaving the other horses behind (and headed toward plenty more).  She kept trying (and succeeded a couple times) to break into a trot.  She kept trying to turn around and continue heading OUT on our ride.  When I'd try stopping her with just one rein, she'd say "oh, you wanna pull one rein, eh?  fine--I'll just turn my butt all the way around and head back the way I wanted to go anyway" or swish her butt off the side of the trail (which had a steep dropoff).  If I held the reins too tightly, she tossed her head.  If I let them go looser, she'd start trotting.  She was just generally being a total butt.  Our last few solo rides, which were on completely familiar terrain, granted, her worst behavior has been going slow and occasionally spooking.  And calling for Emma...  So yeah, I hadn't had to deal with that sort of behavior in a while.

I dismounted, made her run a couple tight circles around me in each direction, then told her if she wanted to trot, we'd BOTH trot, but only as fast as I could jog.  :-)  I had to remind her a couple times where my "bubble" is, but after that she respected my space pretty well, alternating walking and trotting right along behind me.  I sped up a bit on a nice smooth downhill section, then we got to a steep rocky section, so we both needed to slow down.  But I didn't make it too easy on her--we periodically stopped and even backed up, while pointed downhill.  I snapped this photo of our audience during one of the backing sections:

When we came to the REALLY steep downhill section near her pen, I made her stop every step or two, but didn't make her back up.  But just because we ended up back at her pen, didn't mean we were done.  I had to go fetch that whip from the arena, right?  So we did another circuit through the obstacles, then wandered around the arena looking for my whip (purple blends surprising well with beige dirt) and helping a fellow rider look for her keys (luckily she found them--in her boot where she'd put them for safekeeping!).  All the while, Arya contritely followed me with a loose lead, maintaining slack but also maintaining my bubble.  Good girl!  I think I gained some respect!  But I was hot and tired and didn't want to test that theory, so we went back up to the barn, she got untacked and hosed off, then released into her pen to have a good roll.  I fed her, cleaned up her poop, chatted a while with one of the other clinic attendees (the lady who'd temporarily lost her keys), and eventually headed home.

Tomorrow and Sunday are going to be hot and TIRING, but hopefully very good for me, Arya, and our partnership.  I'll post on that eventually, but it might take me a while.  :-)

Here's a parting shot of Arya munching down her dinner.  Actually, Thursday's dinner, but whatever.

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