Tuesday, March 17, 2009

More Like Winter Break...

As usual, spring break this year has been nothing but winter-like. It has snowed EVERYDAY I have been home. To think that I had actually believed I could get a spring break that was decent before I graduated. Ha. I guess that's what I get for going to WSU who schedules their 'spring' break during the official winter season.

At least it all melts away by the end of the day so it isn't building up on itself. Besides the nighttime snow events, it has also been storming like mad. Hail, snow, strong winds, and driving rain. Everything all in the same hour of the same day, all day long...

And as usual, Star is standing out in the mess. She is a very sensitive and insecure horse, especially for a 20 year old. When she stands in that corner of the paddock, she can see Mercy at all times, so even though I know she is not comfortable standing in the cold slush, it is more comforting to her to know her best bud was still on the property. Luckily, Mercy doesn't really care that much. When I ask her to work she listens to me as if no one else was around. All of this, of course, was put to the test this past Sunday when my mom and I hauled these two out to a friends indoor arena.

I need to ride during this break, there is no option. And even though I don't feel 100%comfortable driving the trailer in the snow and slush, I need to be able to work with my horse. Slick trails do not make the best training environment. Plus, I get sick of our trails after a while so taking the horses somewhere else makes great sense. I hadn't been home for a few weeks and the horses hadn't been handled much except for some great grooming sessions, so I am always curious how the loading will go. This time they were awesome! They both loaded up quietly and quickly. Could be that my mom and I caught the short sun break that drove that luck, but then again, they are much better loading in general now.

We were able to get to the arena before the next CRAZY thunderstorm rolled through so saddling up was easy and stress less, like always. We head into the barn where three of my GREAT 4H club members are riding their horses preparing for the show this coming Saturday. I said hi quickly to their parents and baby sister and turned around to see Star starting a fight with my mom. I had Mercy still in the aisle way and my mom had taken Star into the arena and now Star felt threatened by the other horses around her friend. When Star gets upset, she forgets about personal space, dominance, partnership and general sanity. She also kicks and squeals like a freakin' stallion. Since she was giving my mom such a hard time and disrupting the other girls' training, I handed Mercy to my mom and I took a hold of Star. I took her out to the middle of the arena, out of the way of everyone. She for the life of her could not stand still and NOT stare at Mercy. At that point, that's all I wanted from her, for her to look away from Mercy and relax. When she did we were calm and I gave her a reassuring pat, when she wasn't, I did some ground work with her. My mom, meanwhile, had Mercy practice walking over a bridge which kept her busy enough.

I realized at some point that Star was not going to settle down enough to feel any accomplishment, so I just bridled her up and jumped on. She has always been the kind of horse that is more easily controlled on her back than working with her on the ground. Once I was up, I proceeded to keep her busy by asking for collection, gait transitions, and speed control while working on the rail with the other riders. Except for the freak thunderstorm that rolled over us, spewing it's massive hail balls on the tin roof, Star did start to relax much more than with the ground work, so I jumped off and handed over the reins.

I tightened Mercy's cinch and hopped up. Luckily, she is Miss Easy-Go-Lucky around other horses, so working with her in a small arena full of horses she knew and didn't know is a pleasure. I started off just working small circles asking her to stay between my reins and my legs while reaching for collection. It took her awhile to reach a somewhat collected state, but as soon as she did we quit for a short break in the center of the arena. Once she had taken my to the left and right, at a trot, willingly and soft, I moved back out to the rail.

Meanwhile, I just had my mom continue to work with Star by giving her breaks to rest when she was good. Then one of the riders on a dark bay Arabian left the arena, at which point Starlett let out a HUGE sigh and completely relaxed to the point where my mom could ride her on the rail without too much trouble. Hmmm... I don't know why but I think Star felt most 'threatened' by this dark arab. It became clear this was the case later when he returned to the arena and Star was again on alert. That is the most frustrating behavior. I did have plans on taking both horses to my gaming shows this year, but at this point that would be stupid and irresponsible of me. we'll see what happens....

Anyway, all three of the riders left after quite a while of riding. We said goodbye to them and continued to ride. After continuing some rail work with collection, I decided to try loping Mercy. I started with her 'good' side, to the left, to give us a good staring point and a place to build on later. Once mom and Star were in the middle of the arena, I asked for a lope. She jumps right into it, no problem, expect that I am not use to her long stride. It takes quite a bit of effort for my out of shape self to stay centered over her. Especially when we have no speed control yet. We were going around great for a while, then her saddle started slipping to the outside, leading to some minor crow hops. We stopped so I could tighten her up again. I need a different cinch and it's too bad she doesn't have higher withers...that would sure solve this silly problem.

I once again asked her to lope and this time I waited for her to slow down to a nice controlled lope. Then we stopped and took a long break to reward her for the job well done. Once she started getting antsy (or bored) I reversed directions to her 'bad' or right side. I have had one hell of a time getting her to move over her hip and align her shoulders to take the lead. Mercy just has this trick where she can be balanced and prepared for the correct lead and at the absolute last minute she will throw her hip to the inside and either take the left lead or crossfire down the rail. Fun.

I set her up the best I could and urged her into the right lead. I looked down to check out how things were going (yes, I know, I shouldn't have too but with her long stride I just don't have the skills yet to know what lead we're on). But OMG! We got it! What?!?! This has never happened on the first try... ever. It must have been a fluke. Seriously, it takes me forever to get it when I ask her. Yes! I want to make it a good deal so I let her come back to a walk and eventually ask her to stop. Oh breath!

Is it asking too much to try again? I thought, 'Well, I'm here at this indoor arena with no one else here. I have time if it doesn't work out.' I asked her again to pick up the right lead.

Once again, she easily lopes off on the right. I was so thrilled that I couldn't even pay attention to steering. I just wanted to ride it and feel it out. What a wonder feeling. No cross firing. No bucking. No head tossing. Just the right lead and her moving out! I asked for her to slow her lope down a little and it took a while, but as soon as she did I jumped off, loosened her cinch, and gave her a final break. I walked her around for a while to let her catch her breath and we called it a day.

When we exited the arena, it was nice out so loading went easily and the drive home was a breeze. Before leaving the facility, this is what we found- usually you can see the mountains, not this day:

The colors of these clouds just didn't come out. This storm cloud was massive, and so extremely black. We are so lucky we didn't have to drive home in that!

What a GREAT DAY!! ;)

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