Low Key

We had a pretty mediocre lesson after my last post. I’ve been frustrated with my riding lately, torn on what I should be doing, second-guessing, third-guessing, fourth-guessing… So I’ve used this little holiday time to try to reset, to back off him and myself. I know I’m probably not pushing hard enough, but my gut says to keep things quiet and easy and positive. I don’t think we’ll be having any big breakthroughs, and certainly not fast, but I also won’t be leaving the barn in tears.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I went out to see him midday. It was so fun and refreshing to be out there while it was still light out! Friday I warmed him up forward and loose, then worked on steady contact and bending. He felt great — better than the last couple weeks for sure. A few canter poles were his reward at the end of the ride — and some two-point work at the trot was mine. (Trying to keep my fitness/balance resolution!) Saturday I trace clipped him. I’ve learned from past experience that neither of us has the patience to do a ride and a clip in the same day. Definitely the right call: someone snuck him a treat while I was vacuuming him, and he was pretty incorrigible after that. He’s overall a good (and unflappable) boy and stood fairly well for the clip, but it’s really hard to do anything from the shoulder forward while he’s trying to jam his nose into the clippers, or my hands, or hair, or whatever’s in reach, and begging from passersby… Sunday we had another ride focusing on simple contact and bending, with some trot poles thrown in. Another woman at my barn has a horse built just like Poe (chestnut too — we always joke about doing a pas de duex), so every time we put the trot poles further apart to try to make them stretch we were laughing about how easily and ho-hum they trotted through. We ended with the poles 5 feet apart, which didn’t feel like much work for either of them. Good ponies!

Here are Poe and his pasture buddy coming to look for treats. I love that he comes to me — it’s going to be so nice once the snow’s flying!

More 2011 Wrap-Up

Obviously I’ve fallen way behind again. Let’s pretend I wrote about all kinds of things promptly:

The eye recheck: The vet came out the day after my last post; he stained Poe’s eye again, and found the ulcer totally healed, yay! There was a small cloudy spot left, so we moved on to a round of steroids to take care of any of it that was inflammation-related vs scar tissue. Poe will probably always have a small scar there, but it’s just behind and above his pupil, so the vet said it shouldn’t impair his vision whatsoever, and cleared him fully for jumping. Big relief!

Foxhunting: I played hooky from work on a Wednesday morning, and we spent the whole hunt in first field. I was pretty honored (and, I’ll admit, a little freaked out) to be invited there immediately, sitting on my still-pretty-green five-year-old who’s only hunted once before, a whole year ago. When I was introduced, the Hunt Master lavished me with some pretty high praise about my previous horse (who I sold 2 years ago to one of the hunt members). He is a pretty awesome little dude and it makes me unbelievably happy to see him doing so well with his new owner. Anyway, I was a little worried being in first field the entire hunt would be too much mentally for Poe-face, and that our brakes would fail or he would just come apart at the seams — but he was a rockstar. He didn’t stand at checks and the brakes could use work, but I was super proud of him. He was enthusiastic and brave, quick on his feet, and kept his attention glued on the hounds — he figured out fast where all the action was! By the time we got back to the stable he was like a toddler high on sugar and several hours past naptime. Definitely made me grateful that I don’t have to deal with toddlers all the time, and that most of them aren’t 1200 pounds.

The Hunter Pace: We hunted on a Wednesday and the Pace was the following Sunday. I turned him out in the arena once in between to see how he was feeling after hunting (answer: great!), but otherwise left him alone to be a horsey and process all the excitement. When he saw the trailer outside on Sunday, he literally started shaking he was so excited. Lovely. We wound up having quite the adventure getting there. The gathering place for the event is a beautiful private farm in Medina; a front turn-out field serves as trailer parking. Unfortunately, there is a pretty significant swale/dip between the road and the main part of the field. While driving through the gate, over this swale, the trailer (a bumper pull) bounced off the hitch. Just popped straight off. Terrifying! Luckily we were going quite slowly, and surrounded by handy horse people. We unloaded the ponies; we tied Rascal to the fence (such a good boy) and I walked Poe up and down the patch of grass between the fence and the road. He walked and ate and walked and and stared all around while Lennie and a couple other people got the trailer jacked up and put back on the hitch. Thankfully nothing was damaged! A bit shaken, we finally got parked, signed in, and got our ponies ready.

The ride was a blast. Each team (usually a pair, though some teams are bigger) is sent out with a map, and is supposed to ride the marked course as close to the optimum hunting time as possible. This optimum time is a secret until everyone is done — the course is ridden before the event by one of the hunt members to set the pace, and the team closest to that time wins. Last year we took home the trophy, and the year before were in 2nd place by mere moments. This year they added some new jumps and ran the course back to front. Poe was awesome! He was very happy to be out, and we even took the lead over some nice-sized brush fences when his fearless leader Rascal balked at them (he was raring to go, Rascal be damned!). That was probably my favorite part of the day: once we got over the third fence, I felt him totally get it; he hunted for the next fence and dragged me there. Awesomest feeling! We clocked along and came in about the same time as we had last year, even though the course was a little longer. When we went to check our time, however, I got a bit of a disapproving look and a warning that they had slowed things down quite a bit this year. Needless to say we went home empty-handed! I thought it a bit strange that they wouldn’t have told people about slowing things down before sending them out on course — but, honestly, we had such a blast I don’t think we would have gone slower if we had known!

Since then: Poe got a little well-deserved time off, then we returned to lessons and dressage work. I had some really nice rides on him, and my trainer had an awesome school with him, but he was feeling just a little funky to me — stiffer than usual. Then I had a ride where felt downright weird, and I panicked a little and made Lennie come out to give her expert opinion. She felt he wasn’t lame, but a bit sore in the hind end, so I hunted up a masseuse for him. She found some really tight areas, but told me to absolutely continue his current level of work, and that the massage should help him loosen up. AND (best part) she said he had one of the best backs of any horse she works on — not sore at all! Since then I’ve had a handful of rides. He definitely feels better, though he’s still taking a while to warm up and start really bending. Last night’s ride was a total disaster — the arena footing is in the middle of an overhaul, so it was really uneven and strange, and he was distracted and belligerent the whole ride, and I was all frustrated, and it was just a horrible combination. I have a lesson tonight that I’m hoping will be MUCH better!

Goals: One awesome take-away from last night came from eavesdropping on another woman’s lesson. At the end her instructor had her drop her stirrups and practice posting. We all had a chat about the importance of stirrupless work, and I have known forever that I would benefit a lot from it. So, I’m going to really make it happen this winter. I want my head back in the game for the 2012 season, and that starts with getting my body in the game. No excuses!

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