Friday, August 14, 2015

Solo Ride 8/7/15

Man, this summer is slipping away, and I just haven't been riding much.  So I decided to ride this week, come hell or high water, and only got around to it on Friday.  I'd been feeling all allergy-laden (I've come to realize it's probably all the smoke in the air from wild fires) all week and not up to being outdoors.  Shar and I talked all week about riding, and I bailed on her every time, then by the time Friday came around, I was finally ready to ride, and she couldn't for some reason I don't remember now--had already ridden that day, I think, and was just wiped?

I tacked up my girlie...

What are we doin' today?

When I went to mount up, the usual butterflies started up, but for some reason, my silly girl finally stood still for me to mount.  She shuffled one foot a bit (totally forgivable, probably to redistribute weight after my significant poundage was added), but didn't actually MOVE.  Good girl!  We stood a moment, then set off.  She made a move for the green grass in the driveway, but willingly enough headed for the exit off the property instead.  She once again hinted that she wouldn't mind heading toward the former grazing area (it's all dead and dry now, though, but she apparently doesn't realize that) near the arena, but once again more than willingly went in the direction I suggested instead.

I decided to let her decide which way we'd leave the property.  I've been turning left only, ever since she got REALLY attached to the neighbor horses one day and I had a hard time UN-latching her to make any progress, but the older horse passed away and the younger pony has found a new home, so that property no longer has horses.  It add a tiny bit of distance, but is a decent change in scenery (yet is scenery she's seen before, nothing brand new).  Or I didn't mind continuing our old habit.  So I let her choose.  We turned right.  Okay.  She was walking out fairly well--much better than the other direction, where she veers toward home, then when I steer her the other way, she "overcorrects" as if to say, "oh, you want to turn right, huh, well let's just turn ALL the way around and head home, then!"  I was working on deep breathing, relaxing, and letting my lower back be soft and plyable.  I took a deep breath and settled my seat, and she picked up a trot.  Hmm.  I didn't exactly ASK for it, but that is actually one of the exercises we did at Celena's clinic, so maybe she thought I asked for it.  I decided to go with it and let her trot a bit.  I was pleased with the fact she was being so forward while headed away from home.

Well.  That lasted all of 10 seconds or so, before I realized what she was up to.  She veered into a driveway (which, of course, conveniently [for her] pointed toward home).  Uh uh!  I finally pulled her up to a stop, but THAT was naughty!  So now we'd be sticking to a walk for the foreseeable future.  She walked willingly enough, and fairly straight, but kept trying to break into a trot.  I knew why--we were coming around to the corner with the junction where we're normally coming from the other way.  Normally, we'd be going west, then would turn north (then jog west again soon after).  Now, we were headed north, and would continue north at that junction (then turn west again soon).  She, of course, really really wanted to head east, toward home.

As we approached the intersection, I mentally prepared for her to want to turn.  I tried to physically stay relaxed.  A half dozen strides or so before the actual road took off, and a couple strides before she could even physically make much of a turn (due to a fence), she started trotting, then as soon as the fence ended, she darted toward home, on the shoulder of the road right next to the fence.

Okay.  Let me interject something here.  Those of you with horses who truly BOLT are going to laugh at me, mentally if not aloud.  Those of you with horses who buck or rear are going to think I'm insane.  Those of you with horses who go apeshit in any manner are likely to think I'm a total wuss.  Sorry.  This is my blog, and these are my feelings.  Even though in rational terms, she wasn't actually THAT naughty, I was getting scared-er by the second, and was physically shaking.

Okay, back to Arya.  She was jigging along the fenceline--barely faster than a walk, but her feet were trotting.  I was trying to one-rein stop, or even just steer her away from the fence, but her brain was on home, and her darling Emma, and NOT on me in the slightest.  She danced closer to the fence (wire grid on wood posts, luckily not barbed wire or T-posts), and my leg even rammed into it once, luckily without incident.  But I was a nervous wreck, and afraid I'd come off, and especially afraid I'd come off and get tangled in the fence.  And I was unable to control her speed OR direction.  I needed to get off, and do it under MY terms.  She kept dancing and prancing, and I knew I couldn't get off safely (I wasn't asking for gracefully, but at least in a spot that was level enough I wouldn't roll and ankle or twist a knee (right, Alanna and/or Wendy?), and without tangling my foot in the stirrup or any other equipment (right, Alanna?).  Finally, she pranced her way over to the dirt road and stood still for three seconds or so, and I hopped off, safely.  Whew.

But this needed to NOT be a reward for her.  Nosirree.  She needed to think we'd been having a nice ride while I was on board, and a very much NOT nice time after she became naughty and I got off.

I backed her up as fast as I could manage, from the road into and out of the ditch and nearly up to the fence she'd been trying to rub me off on (actually, I'm pretty sure she wasn't trying anything of the sort, just trying to go home and not thinking of much else).  I circled her until her mind was on me, and her feet didn't slow when heading away from her darling Emma or speed up when she was headed toward her darling Emma.  First at the trot, then the walk, until each was a steady rhythm.  I did some lateral work, pivoting her hind end around her front end and a little bit of sidepassing.  We walked and trotted away from home a ways, interspersing these exercises (a LOT of backing!) throughout.

Finally, she seemed to be focused on me instead of her buddy who was SO lonely (not--there are three other horses in the pasture!) at home, so we started heading toward home, but not in any hurry.  We stopped and touched things that made funny noises, like a plastic mailbox (whose owner came out and shooed us away--oops!) and stop signs, we backed up some more, and we stopped and stood still periodically.

Along the way, I took some pictures of our shadows:

Then, when we got back home, I didn't want arriving home to mean she was done working and immediately got to visit her buddy.  So I took her straight to the roundpen and put her to work.  I kept the bridle on and everything, just looped the reins through the pommel so they couldn't fall down.  Worked her in circles both directions, changing directions a couple times.  First, she was so high-energy she was cantering around, then she slowed to a trot but I made her keep it there for a while, then we ended with walking as I don't want to reinforce that circling (whether in the round pen or on a line) means FAST.  By the end she was definitely paying attention to me, and asking permission to come hang with me.  I stopped her and made her stay out on the circle for a minute, then allowed her to come in for some rubs.

Photo above, video below of the round pen work.

But even now that we were done with the work, and I was going to go into the house for some shade and cold water, SHE wasn't going to get to immediately go back to her buddy.  Not yet.  I got her some nice cold water and tied her to the trailer and untacked her, and she stood there for another hour or so while Shar and I recapped and I messaged Celena that we definitely needed an on-site lesson to deal with her buddy sourness.  Now that it's taken me a week to write this, Celena's coming tomorrow, and I'm very much looking forward to her assessment, and adding some tools to my toolbox of dealing with Arya.  When I think about it objectively, I should be able to stay on and make her continue our ride, but in the moment, I freeze up and can't think about anything except the danger of falling and how I have to get off before I fall off.  So I don't know if I'm hoping she'll help me with my confidence, or just with dealing with Arya if/when I get off onto the ground, or what.  We'll see what tomorrow brings...

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