We saddled up, and I headed to the round pen. Arya started moving with just a cluck and a point again, yay! She stopped with my awkward cue. Yay! A couple of prompts took a flick of the whip, and I think it's time for us to work on not just responsibility on technically staying in the GAIT I asked her to, but in maintaining a bit of enthusiasm for the gait. :-) She was trotting so slowly a couple of times that she was barely moving. Ha. But overall she did well, so I mounted up.
And, in keeping with what would be the theme for the whole ride, Shar and Flash still had to wait a bit (they'd already mounted up while I was in the round pen), because I don't want Arya just moving off the second my butt hits the saddle. It's only been a few times of really trying to reinforce the concept, and she's doing well--didn't move this time. But we stayed at the halt for a minute or so, reaching her neck around to both sides, then backing up a step or three before finally setting off.
We reached the end of the driveway, and Arya must've done the mental calculations and realized that when we went right on our last solo ride where she totally took advantage of me, she didn't have to work that hard and convinced me to get off (though we DID work after I got off, but still), and when we turned left the time Celena rode her, she had to do a whole bunch of circles and that really sucked, because she pulled to go right. So we went left. Ha!
She was S.L.O.W., but I tried to channel Celena and remember not to micromanage her too much and just accept that she was moving in the direction I asked at the gait I asked for, and not sweat the "small stuff" like actual speed. Ugh. We circled back, and of course when she was pointed toward home, she sped up, and when I asked her to continue the circle right on away from home again she felt like she was trudging through molasses. Which just meant we had to do another circle again soon after. And again. Until the circle felt the same throughout. She also gets really stiff through her body on the side where she's turning toward home, and bends much nicer on the side where she's bending away from home, though you'd think it would be the opposite, if anything.
So we circled repeatedly (with a slight break to head straight, away from home, in between so we didn't get too dizzy) until she felt the same all the way around the circle--same bend, same speed, etc. Meanwhile, Shar was doing her job, which I'd assigned her before the ride--remind me to breath, remind me to look where I'm going in the circle (instead of at Arya's ears or wherever), and remind me to sit up and lean "back" (really sitting up straight, but it feels to me like I'm leaning back). Or as Celena and Shar both say to help remind me--BOOBS OUT!
She did PRETTY well after a bit of sluggishness at the idea of leaving home. We got to the intersection at the end of Shar's road (not the one that was the most problematic on our solo rides) and did a bunch of circles there. There were some tires stacked up at the end of someone's driveway that she feigned a spook at, so we got a bit closer to them then proceeded to ignore them.
We progressed on down the road toward the problematic intersection. At one point, a car passed us, then turned into their driveway just ahead of us. I'd been periodically asking Arya to trot while heading away from home (only away, not toward!), and chose that moment to ask for a trot. Well, of course it didn't go well, between the car in the driveway and the human emerging from it while it blasted music, the dogs at the home excited to see their humans, plus a horse bucking in the pasture nearby. Oops. Shar pointed out that I had terrible timing and needed to remember to set ourselves up for success. Indeed.
But we circled and/or trotted our way down toward the problem intersection. When we got there, Shar and Flash just moved off into the grass for snacktime while Arya and I did our thing. We did many sloppy circles and a couple good ones. We headed down the road away from home. I did another circle. Some goats headed toward us. Arya was eyeing them. I did another circle. Arya eyed them harder, they got a little closer. I asked for another circle, and Arya was pretty sure she didn't actually care what direction we went anymore, she just wanted to head AWAY from the goats. Once again, bad timing on my part. Man, I'm dumb. So instead we headed forward (away from home) without circling for a bit, until we were past the goats and Arya's had a chance to observe that they weren't going to eat her, THEN we circled. Again, it took a few tries for her to settle into a nice soft circle, but it was amazing when I could feel the difference between her being all stiff and resistant vs. supple and willing to walk where I asked.
We headed back toward home, but then (SURPRISE!) headed away from home again on a different road. Circles, circles, circles. Down and up through a small ditch. Saw some quail, which freaked Arya out. She hardly even flinches when rabbits come out of the brush, but the quails were SCARY, apparently.
We got close to our friend Krista's house, and just as I wondered aloud whether she was home, she came out for a little chat. Arya and Flash both got face rubs. Flash got some more snacking done (I kept Arya in the middle of the gravel driveway and prevented snacking--I'm mean!) and the "grownups" got to chat for a while. When we were done chatting, it seemed like as good a time as any to turn around and begin the short, slow journey home. Lots more circles, a couple "false starts" heading down the wrong way on roads that branched out, etc. She once again started out all wonky on the circles, really wanting to head home, but we kept working on it until she felt a lot softer and more "even" all the way around.
We breezed past the goats without much incident. We got past the driveway where the car had been blasting music before without incident. We spent a little more time investigating the stacked-up tires again (let her look for a few seconds, then asked her to walk past them. Walked down the road (AWAY from home, even!) to walk past a couple other stacks. She did fine. Throughout all this, she was definitely charging toward home and sluggish heading away, but I kept channeling Celena and not worrying about speed as long as she maintained the proper gait, and focused much more on how she was doing in the circles, working on getting nice even circles (not shape--I didn't worry about THAT, just the cadence, speed, and bend in the circles being the same whether we were headed toward or away from home), and rewarding her with a long stretch of walking toward home without nagging when we got a nice circle or two.
Things were going pretty well up through that last intersection before the home stretch, and then she got MORE anxious/excited about going away from or toward home. We saw some mini donkeys (humans said "Cute!" but Arya said "Scary!") that shook Arya up a bit, and I could tell her little brain was just saying "my friends are at home, these weird-looking critters are weird-looking, why can't we just go HOME already?" and starting to lose mental control. We did more circles. I tried to trot her away from home but she was weaving all over the place so as soon as I got ONE stride that seemed to be straight-ish, I went ahead and asked for walk, but kept walking away from home. LOTS of circles. Then as we got closer to home, we noticed there was a LOT of traffic. Not only had a couple of friends come over (each with one truck and trailer, though I think both horses were in one trailer), Holly had gotten Emma out and there was a farrier there trimming her feet.
So now I had a big dilemma. I didn't want to return to the house right away, while Arya was being so bratty about it especially, but I also didn't want to cause trouble for Holly or her farrier while they had Emma out getting trimmed. Ugh. I hollered that I was working my way home slowly, but would do so as quickly as I could. We didn't do QUITE as many circles as we might have otherwise done, but did pass up the driveway, then do a couple circles right in front of it without entering it, then even pulled into the driveway then back out again, etc., but tried not to drag it out too long. Emma was doing okay, it looked like, so I thought that was a good compromise. If Emma had started throwing a fit, I guess I would've had to cut it short and work Arya later or something. But I think it worked out. I did think about doing a loop or two around the driveway at home before dismounting, but realized that wouldn't be fair to Emma or her handlers, and just hopped off.
So, Arya did get a bit antsy toward the end of the ride, but I don't know how much of that was her typical barn/buddy sourness, and how much was because of the hubbub going on at home. But overall it actually went much better than I expected, as our first ride out from home since the lesson with Celena, especially since I hadn't ridden much (at all, I don't think--just groundwork) since the lesson. She did well overall, losing her brain closest to home, and constantly "asking" whether we could just give up and go home, but always getting compliant again quickly, then proceeding to ask again, and giving in again. It's like she's a toddler. :-) But all in all, I was pretty pleased with both of us.
Question is whether the next step is to do another ride with our babysitter (Shar along mostly to remind me to breathe and look where I'm going instead of slouching, but mainly having another horse along to ease the transition between Celena doing it and me going SOLO) or move to a true solo ride. First true solo ride will stick very close to home, possibly only going a few hundred feet from the driveway overall, but with LOTS of circles, halts, and trots heading away from home for good measure. What do you think, readers? Especially Celena?
And since I didn't take any photos during that ride (riding with both hands the entire time!), here's one from a while ago:
|Smith Rock ride back in...June? with Holly and Graham on Ace and Emma, too, though they're not in the photo|