I worked a double shift on the mountain for three days and took yesterday to play with the horses and recoop a bit before heading back into the "real" world.
Coupled with that beautiful rising sun are is the fresh corduroy that comes with first run of the day as we sweep the mountain to prep it for opening. First runs and last runs, baby, one of the biggest perks to patrol. I watched the sun rise and set on the mountain three days in a row this weekend. I made first tracks with the rising golden sun and last tracks by only the light of my headlamp on trails closed to night-skiing.
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We had an insane number of calls Saturday. While a little stressful, its good to be on your toes. I find I really enjoy the challenge. More and more, so many things in my life, I enjoy the challenge. I enjoy the discomfort. I enjoy having to push myself to be better. Patrol excels at pushing me out of my comfort zone. I love it.
I also love the people on our patrol. They're really wonderful individuals and many are liked-minded to me. It is beyond fun spending long days with them and working through problems and finding fun. Mostly its really enjoyable to spend time with people who are so driven to get up and move and do things. Everyone is so eager to get out and get the work done. I really can't say enough positive things about these folks.
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And another fun evening activity? Cards Against Humanity. Its Apples to Apples for people with crazy minds. Seriously one of the most hilarious games I've ever played. We played a LOT of CAH this weekend.
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Monday dawned cold with the promise of even colder temps as the day wore on. But clouds were scarce and the sun made it seem not so cold. I headed home from the Valley mid-morning to laze around my house for a bit before contemplating barn time. I reveled in my new warm slippers that arrived just in time for the colder weather - which led to even more lazing around the house. It was just so warm and comfy inside by the fire!
A patrol friend and I headed out to the barn around 1p; I wanted to play with my horses and he wanted a second riding lesson. The horses were in the front field for the first time in WEEKS. I brought both mine in in short order.
While there is MUCH room for improvement, I am thrilled with their ground manners and skillsets. Coming across the barnyard I had both in hand and could start jogging and both would follow suit. I can stop without warning and both skid to a halt at my shoulder. Its a simple exercise, but it absolutely thrills me.
I tacked Q up and threw the new green pad and bareback pad on Griffin with a side-pull halter. We headed over to the new outdoor riding pen to see about working in there. As I walked into the pen Q was spooked by a trashbag on the fence. I tied Griffin and proceeded to get the bag and Q and head to the center of the pen to work her through the issue.
Wind was gusting 25-30 mph throughout the day which made that bag all the more scary. Q flitted around me as I held the bag and I followed her waiting for her to realize that the noise monster wouldn't kill her. Robb thought I was psycho for "torturing" my horse so I explained to him what I was doing as I did it. I made a point of explaining how while yes, she was startled by it she'd figure out that when she stopped the bag would "go away" in a manner and not eat her. Additionally, I pointed out to him that even though she seemed scared witless, she made a very distinct point of NEVER getting in my space while we worked through the issue. She always lept around and away from me, never through me. Within minutes she'd calmed and I could let the bag flap all over her body, legs, and head. She's not bomb-proof to it yet, but she calmed down a considerable amount.
To make a point I grabbed Griffin and showed Robb how different the two horses' personalities were. Griffin's eyes got a little big and he backed up a step or two, but within 30 seconds or less he was standing there all, "No big deal" about it. I was even able to release the bag to blow against his chest and flap against his legs while he stood stock still, nearly asleep. I love this little horse!!
Robb's lesson went well. He learned a lot and put a lot together. He went from working in the round pen to working in the barnyard. My level of trust in his abilities went from near nothing to sky-high (as long as he was in the contained barnyard area). He fixed his riding position to be more than acceptable for someone who has only ridden a horse twice, kept his hands low and out of her mouth, was deliberate but not harsh with his cues to Q, walked and trotted Q at his own discretion, was able to sit her trot some, and even managed to get her to trot over poles. After about an hour she started to get tired of his less than perfect abilities though and learned to avoid listening to him. After three or four failed attempts to get her to go back over the poles (now arranged with an itty bitty cross rail) I got back on my girl to "reset" her.
I'd forgotten the last time we went over a jump (just walking) she spooked for some inane reason, broke the wood, and spooked because the "monster" got her. I walked her over and around the mess she made from that experience and she was no longer afraid of it at the time, but the experience really stuck with her it seems. It took a lot of patience and little steps, but with a trained first responder at my beck and call if I got hucked I pursued through her issues yesterday.
She was doing her best to avoid going near the poles at first by backing up VIOLENTLY and spinning in an attempt to bolt. I one-rein stopped her for her first two attempts at this. She then down-graded to only backing and spinning, sans bolt. So we backed and spun and I kept her spinning in a tight circle for longer than she planned. She then opted out of all of her shenanigans and decided she'd walk toward the poles when asked. She was hesitant, but we took it a step at a time with praise and within minutes she was walking and trotting over everything like a champ.
With someone who could deliver first aid if I needed it I decided to continue the exercise further since the ground wasn't very slick (a positive thing about the arctic), and had Robb bring over the medium sized jump and put it over the crossrail at the end of the trot poles. I weaved Q in and around all of these obstacles several times and then asked her to trot slowly through them. A little hesitancy, but no issues! She and I then proceeded to trot at increasing speeds through the little line several times to solidify that it wasn't a monster and wouldn't eat her. With each pass through I praised her for being a good, brave girl. She didn't even rush over it like she'd been doing months ago when we were last jumping. GOOD GIRL, Q.
Post-ride I backed up both horses' toes some more (no photos, sorry). Q just needed a little more work, and Griffin needed a lot. I'm trying to stick with a 2 week schedule on his feet for awhile. I really need to get his toes back, heels down, and get rid of the minimal flaring that has cropped up. Both horses are very happy with their feet, but both have some room for improvement. The new outdoor pen is currently gravel (pea gravel and sand to arrive in the near future) and both horses were trotting SOUNDLY on this gravel. This is how I know their feet (especially Q's) are in a wonderful place. I'm so thrilled with them (and myself for learning and taking good care of their feet).
Quite the full weekend of things I love. Its pretty safe to say I'm loving life right now.