...especially after this past weekend! More excitement than I needed before 9am, for certain. I and my other ski patrol coworkers were able to evacuate over 200 people from the lift in less than 2 hours. Not too shabby; helps that this group of people work absolutely seamlessly as a team when shit hits the fan. And the best news is that miraculously everyone involved is OKAY despite the debacle. Grateful for that; miracle indeed.
The horses ended up having a 6 week vacation during January and part of February. It was unanticipated, but for the best. All parties are better for it. None of us had to suffer through frigid training conditions and all were happy for a physical and mental break - evident in amazing work products present in recent rides!
Griffin and I have had several short flatting sessions over the past week. The first two days back were ROUGH. The self carriage he was becoming so skilled at before the break seemed to be completely foreign to him. And I expected him to be rusty, but man, not as bad as he exhibited! Fortunately, by ride three, the light bulb came on and I had my horse back - and then some!
We have been doing almost exclusively walking and trotting because I want to firm up all the basics we'd covered before we canter again. Last Thursday he exhibited on of the best - if not THE best - work he's ever offered. We had complete self carriage with a loose rein just like you'd see in the pages of a classical dressage book. And it wasn't only for a few strides at a time as it used to be. Griffin maintained for a solid lap and then a lap and a half of the barnyard riding area (120 ft' diameter circle, roughly) at the walk and trot. Color me shocked (and thrilled).
All of our riding the past week or so has been with the bareback pad. Griffin is 10x more responsive with this than with the saddle (though, of course, I'll certainly ride with a saddle again in time). He's a sensitive guy and the subtle cues I can give from my seat with the close contact grant a better response from him than when I'm in the saddle. It's also a benefit to me as I'm granted a better feel of how he's using his body. I can feel the exact moment that he rounds himself onto the bit and his impulsion comes from behind.
Reading about what a certain sensation should feel like in a book can only do so much (it's hard to put words to such things!), but I tell you what! When this horse is collected in self carriage it's absolutely magical to ride. I feel like I'm on a CLOUD. He is so balanced and light. His ears flop hither and thither as he strikes forward with a steady rhythm. He's seems to be in a really happy place, too.
Pending the okay from my BO, I plan to set up a small dressage arena in part of the back field. There is plenty of space for my jumps and an arena back there. I'd like to give more structure to what I'm doing with Griffin and I need to proper space to do it! What I set up will be very mobile and a little ghetto, but it'll definitely work for us and shouldn't cost me more than $40 to pull together if things follow the plan I drew up. It'll take more time than money - and I'm okay with that. I'll certainly update on it all once I've completed it.
Q has been great lately, too. While we haven't really been in situations where she can exhibit a nasty spook, she hasn't offered much in the way of spooking behavior at all. That's very encouraging. I'd really like to be at a place at the end of this year where spooking behavior like she's been known to exhibit becomes a thing of the past. She didn't act that way for the first year I had her, so it's obviously something she's learned as a result of things I've done and I very much want to resolve it.
Q has been a lot more sassy lately, which is an indicator of more confidence for her. It's refreshing to see: pawing while tied after I've tacked her up, bobbing her head up in down with impatience, and (this one is a BAD thing that she was quickly reprimanded for) butting up against Griffin and humping her hind end up with threats to kick him when he was nearer to me than she was! Of course, the pawing and head bobbing behaviors aren't necessarily favorable, but Q's manner of exhibiting the them is mild in comparison to most.
I've had two rides on Q in the past week - one of ~3.5 miles on the trail and another of >7 miles accomplished by riding around the perimeter of the back field. Her attitude was very "game" for both.
I really enjoy riding Q on snow landscape. The dull landscape jives much better with her hypersensitivities to the environment. A world dominated by white with shades of brown, black, and grey is much less scary and suspicious to her. The contrasting colors and textures of a snowless landscape definitely cause more concern.
Kenai accompanied us on our trail ride and actually led most of it! Talk about a difference in how good he feels now as compared to last year at this time! The purpose of the ride was to test the TSF shoulder relief girth I'd purchased to try to alleviate our girth issues. We've only had the two rides so far (and only this one with elevation changes), but so far I'm REALLY impressed and quite optimistic about the future. Time will tell... I'll do a more solid review in a few months.
|While not the most attractive photo (her body is curved toward the camera), I'm also really pleased with her weight.|
The field ride was as equally uneventful as our trial ride (hurrah). In fact, the only issue during our 7+ mile jaunt was the proximity of her herd. Her steady mantra of, "Friends. I have friends. Did you know I have friends? I like my friends. Do you see them over there? Those are my friends. I want to be with my friends. Friends." is always coupled with a gravitational pull toward them that results in her bracing against any aids I apply to keep her on our track around the field. I swear, if I'd let her she'd have blindly launched us off the 7'-8' bank and over the creek in order to reach them sooner! She did eventually settle into some nice work on a VERY loose rein...but not until mile 5 or so. *eye roll*
The field ride taught me something new about Q the-horse-who-guards-her-personality-inside-multiple-high-security-vaults: she's a very ditzy blonde, despite her dark coloring. Some of this is due to her Arabian nature, absolutely. I also think the ditzy (for lack of a better term) is definitely a correlated behavior to the spooking. The spooking is the negative side of the spectrum and the ditzy behavior is the other side. She becomes so comfortable with her surroundings that she becomes scatterbrained. I can't accurately put words to it... Regardless, I'll take it over spooking any day! In my mind, it is a lot easier to manage.
Once I have a set arena area in the back field, I'd like to really focus on more dressage concepts with this little mare. She would benefit greatly from it. The trouble with doing it right now is that she is very focused on her herd at all times. To gain quality flat work of any kind from her I have to be absolutely 210% ON IT, which involves me thinking about 6 steps ahead and planning out exercises with quick "changes" to keep her mind on them. Having a delineated space will aid in my ability to plan out exercises better. With time, I'd love to work through an introductory dressage test as a part of her conditioning. The flow of different exercises in one of those tests would be great for her.
All things with time... ☺