Monday, November 23, 2015

Ridin' on the Ranch

Nathan and I got to ride together again, this time with Shar along too, on Flash.  We just rode out from her house, so we fetched the horses and tacked up pretty leisurely.  Shar had a new saddle she was trying, so she had adjustments to make, and mounted up first so I could help with stirrup adjustments if they were needed, and eventually we set off.  Oddly, Arya acted all weird as we left the driveway, even though there was nothing out of the ordinary that I could sense, and she hadn't batted an eye at the garage sale signs a few weeks okay.

She was a little "up" for her--perky and ready to trot at a moment's notice, and very ears-forward even when she was following other horses, but she didn't do anything naughty or ACTUALLY spooky.  Just had me on high alert along with her, just in case.

For her part, Dalai did GREAT on the stretch riding away from the house.  Shar had Nathan keep the lead rope attached, just in case, and even held it as they rode out the driveway, but soon turned the rope back over to Nathan and he was on his own, and they did great together.  I don't think she even tried to turn back toward home, but if she did, he nipped it in the bud, as she never DID actually turn toward home.

We moseyed on down the road, did a little trotting (and Shar did end up needing to adjust the stirrups on her new saddle after all), and so forth.  There was a big plastic tub along the side of the road, and Flash and Dalai both sniffed it (Arya and I were further away, and she didn't even give it the side-eye), and it was a non-event.  Then we got to the place that has turkeys.  They also have horses and random wooden structures (soon-to-be chicken coops?  they were just frames, though).  Flash didn't bat an eye at any of it.  Arya's been by the place enough not to care about the turkeys, but she was pretty sure some of the wooden structures were new, and kind of craned her neck at them as we walked by.  But Dalai heard the turkeys gobbling away and was like "Oh NO I don't!" and tried to spin around for home.

Nathan was having a hard time getting her to obey him, so Shar grabbed the rope to keep her from being able to spin around, and ponied him past the turkeys.  Once Dalai was calmer, she had Nathan practice a couple tight tuns (rein to hip, horse's head to rider's knee/foot).  We took a little singletrack trail uneventfully, and then back on the next section of gravel road, I was riding alongside Nathan and Dalai, and noticed the slack part of the rope between the saddle and halter was getting pretty long, so was trying to coach Nathan through shortening it and tying it to the horn.  He wasn't understanding what I was saying, so we both halted, and I was reaching over to get the rope, but he still had the reins in his hands as well as the rope, so I had him drop the reins onto her neck so I could grab just the rope, and she put her head down to rub it on her legs, and then the reins were up around her ears.  Oh SH*T.  Shar hopped off, and I tried to snatch the reins as she turned toward home right next to me, but missed, so I cut her off with Arya to block her path toward home, which paused her long enough for Shar to catch her.  She got the rope secured and everything, and we set off again.  Crisis averted, but sheesh!  I was kind of frustrated with Nathan for not grokking what I was trying to tell him about the rope in the first place, and kind of irritated with myself for not having him clip the breastcollar through the reins, at least, to keep them from getting up around her head.  All's well that ends well, though.

We continued on our ride, mostly moseying, occasionally trotting.  When we headed north on a pretty exposed chunk of road/trail (not much windbreak from trees), it was COLD.  There was a slight breeze we hadn't noticed when not headed directly into it and/or with better protection, and the socked-in clouds had never really burned off, and it was just COLD.  I was only wearing a sweatshirt (though with my crash vest over top, it was fine for most of the ride), so my arms were getting pretty chilly and my feet were cold throughout the ride.  I had gloves to keep my hands warm, though.  But Nathan, even WITH gloves and a fairly windproof (though not very insulated) jacket, was FROZEN.  Poor kiddo.  At one point, Shar asked whether we wanted to take the scenic route back home or the more direct route, and Nathan voted very hard for the direct route.  Shar had fingerless gloves, so her hands were cold, but she has a very well-trained horse who DIDN'T try to dart for home, so she would just rest the reins on his neck and put her hands in her pocket.  I'm not that brave!

Once we turned toward home, of course Arya picked up the pace, though she wasn't as sluggish as usual, maybe due to the cold weather.  On all the singletrack we traveled, we practiced the "stop and let the others get ahead of you" thing.  For one thing, it's good to work on leaving plenty of space between us and the horse in front of us.  For another, it's good for Arya to learn that the world doesn't end when the other horses get out ahead of us, even if they're briefly out of sight behind a tree.  And of course it's good for her to learn to stand still even as others are walking away from her.  So I'd halt, maybe ask her to back up a few steps (depending on the terrain), and then we'd stand for a few seconds.  If she stood quietly, I'd ask her to walk and we'd catch back up to the others pretty quickly.  A couple times, she was antsy to go again, NOT standing quietly, so I'd remind her with the reins and my seat that NO, we were standing still now, then release the reins and give her a chance to "make a mistake."  Eventually she stood still.  One time, though, it took a few tries and we got pretty far behind.  She apparently decided to catch up by trotting (which she NEVER does, she just walks fairly fast until we catch up) while we were going downhill and between/under some trees I would have rather not been trotting between/under.  But we survived, and I got her back to a walk without much ado.  Sheesh, though.  The ONE time she decides to trot without me asking her to!

Then we got back to the road and did some more trotting.  Arya wasn't in a huge hurry, so the others got a bit ahead of us, and THEN she decided she'd prefer to close the gap.  Something about her gait told me she wanted to canter, but I wasn't totally comfortable with the idea of her cantering, possibly galloping, etc., to catch up to the others, so I kept reminding her with the reins that we weren't going to canter.  She tossed her head a bit, and kept "asking" to canter, but was pretty good about just trotting quickly.  We got a little closer to the others, plus hit a steeper uphill section, so I went ahead and sat a little deeper and let her canter.  We did 8 or 10 strides or so.  Her gait felt coordinated (the trainer was worried about her potentially cross-firing based on a really amped-up round pen session), but it was very UP.  Her energy went a lot into the upward direction, and not as much into the forward direction as you would expect based on her exuberance.  Our top speed the entire ride was 9.9 mph, so NOT super fast, even though it sounded/felt fast at the time.  Ha!  We caught up to the others and she broke into a trot without me even asking, so that was another successful canter.  Woo!

Arya and I led most of the way back, since she'd got a pretty fast walk when she's headed home.  :-)  And she can use the experience of leading, though of course it's not as beneficial on "home turf."  Or at least you would think it wouldn't be.  On a piece of singletrack, she stopped and stared off to her right.  I have no idea what she thinks she saw, but I didn't see anything, so I let her look for a few seconds, and gathered my courage as well, and squeezed her on.  She wouldn't go, so I whapped her with the whip.  She went, but kept her eyes and ears trained to the right for quite a few strides.  Weird.  But she eventually got over it.  We passed the turkeys without incident (yes, we retraced some of our steps on the exact same stretch of road we'd headed out on), and then Arya spooked somewhat big for her (still pretty much stopping and staring, then proceeding while giving a WIDE berth to the scary thing) at some random farm machinery that had BEEN THERE when we'd passed it 90 minutes earlier.  Silly girl!  We survived passing that equipment, and she was pretty good the rest of the way home.

Our last trot session of the ride, before walking the rest of the way home for both training and sweat (at least for Arya) reasons, Arya was lagging behind the others, and in no hurry to catch up.  Then she tossed her head like I was holding her back (silly girl, I wasn't!).  She's so confused--I don't care about catching up to the others, but you better not be trying to stop me from going faster!

We walked the rest of the way home on a nice loose rein, all three horses, put the ponies away, and headed inside to warm up.  Shar made us hot cocoa and remedied the fact that neither Nathan nor I had seen National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, and Richard went and fetched pizza for all of us from town.  Wow, spoiled much?  It was a great day, and a great ride.  Poor Nathan was frozen through and through, but I think he had a good time, and he claims he isn't sore today (the day after), so clearly we need to increase the mileage.  :-)

All photos are courtesy of Shar, with the fingerless gloves.  I was too lazy to take off gloves, take phone out of pouch, take photos, put phone back, put gloves on.  Thanks, Shar!!

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