Double or Nothing

IMG_0812(Early spring pasture)

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Weather permitting, I’m trying to ride one, or sometimes both horses daily. I know it’s unrealistic to think I’ll be able to ride two horses a day once the heat and humidity arrive, but until then I’m going to do my best to try. The way I’ve been doing this is to school one horse in the arena, then ride the other horse out on the trail. Then I reverse the routine the next time I ride. That way nobody gets trail-slighted or ring-sour. Unfortunately, the gnats have been HORRIBLE, but yesterday the temperature suddenly shot up and they didn’t seem quite as bad. It was predicted to be unseasonably hot again today, which meant I’d only get to ride one horse, provided I rode early in the morning.

It was Rascal’s turn in the queue, but he still has a fair amount of winter coat that’s trying to shed out. So I made sure we got out on the trail early and we didn’t do anything too strenuous. Rascal is doing quite well with our trail riding. He readily accepts stream crossings now and he picks his way through even the most the rocky spots fairly well. He’s beginning to really “tune in” to me and vice verse. Overall, I think Rascal’s an uncomplicated horse who wants to please, but who also likes to think a little bit for himself. He’s also grown more interested in having some casual interaction with me in the paddock, as opposed to just wanting to be left alone. I’m finding that he’ll soak up any personal attention like a sponge. I usually spend some time brushing and grooming all the horses every day and Rascal is finally starting to respond to being pampered. At some point I’d really like to give him a bath because he’s pretty crusty, but I’m going to wait until we have a string of nice weather in the forecast. No point in bathing him just to have him go and lay in the mud!

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Ring Around the Rosie

IMG_9533(Rascal, above)

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I gave Dharla about a week off from ring work. After six months of constant ring riding I decided we would only do a little trail riding first. I wanted to give her a chance to wipe the slate clean of all the repetitive circles and requests to do this and that. While “schooling” is nice, too much of it gets on my nerves. And I gotta think that if the monotony of schooling drives me a little crazy, then it must bore the heck out of my horse too. I like to pretend that horses think it’s just nice to meander down a trail every now and then and not have to think about too much except where to put their feet and not to rub up to close to a tree. So we did a bunch of that and it was truly wonderful to be stress and “request” free for a change.

Eventually it was time to take Dharla down to our ring and do little test ride. I’ll admit, I had some trepidation. History has shown that Dharla has some “issues” with our arena and as hard as I’d tried, I was unable to ever feel like I had a handle on our problems down there. In fact, the problems we had with schooling had alot to do with my decision to put her with a trainer. But it was finally time to take the real test and see if any of our lessons would stick and we could duplicate that work ethic at home.

Dharla certainly knew where we were, yet she seemed calm and willing to listen. It may have helped that Rascal stayed up at the barn with Bullet, which resulted in less calling to us down in the ring. Oddly, Rascal hollered a few times, but he wasn’t nearly as persistent as Bullet used to be when he was left behind alone. I always had my suspicions that the incessant calling from Bullet didn’t help Dharla focus very much, but I never wanted to use that as an excuse. Either way, I was pleased to note that the few times the “boys” hollered didn’t seem to matter to Dharla at all.

We started with a lot of nice forward walking and jogging. Dharla was quick to relax, drop her head down into a nice position and engage her hind end. Since most of her issues crop up at the lope, I found I was content to just walk and jog for awhile. I seriously considered not even trying to pick up the lope. Part of me wanted to only do the things I thought we could do well, so our first ride down in the ring would be a success. I mean, that’s sound, logical thinking, right? But deep down I really wanted to know where we stood. Was Dharla going to revert back to her old, fussy ways or was she really willing to work with me and give me her best effort? I relaxed and let her pick up the pace, literally letting her jog into a nice quiet lope. I was stunned by how quietly she loped! No tail wringing! No head tossing! No bucks, hops or shying! We loped a few nice circles and then transitioned back down to a slow, but forward walk. Head down, chewing and blinking …. was this my horse?

To answer my question, we reversed. Granted, I’d started the lope on Dharla’s strong side. Hey, I’m not an idiot! But now it was time to see what I’d get when I asked for the lope on her more difficult direction/side. We spent a fair amount of time just walking and jogging again. I wanted to make sure she wasn’t keyed up from the previous lope. We changed directions several times and when I thought she was nice and relaxed I asked her to pick up the pace of her jog until she stepped right into a lope. Again, she did this with no fuss and no issues! I was literally shocked! We completed a few nice circles, then took the pace back down to a walk where Dharla once again completely relaxed.

We then worked a bit on backing and flexing side to side before I decided it was time to see how she would respond to a direct cue to lope off from a walk. Starting with her strong side first, I asked her to transition from a walk to a lope, which she did without any fuss or hesitation. I think what honestly surprised me even more was that she kept her pace very controlled and didn’t go off like a rocket, or try to buck or shy at some imaginary thing half way around the arena. This truly was the absolute best ride I’d ever had in my own arena since I brought Dharla home four springs ago! We followed the same pattern as before, slowing to a nice relaxed walk and changing directions several times before asking for the lope in the opposite (harder) direction. Again, Dharla moved right off the lightest touch of my leg and quietly moved around the ring as asked. I was ecstatic!!!

We ended with some nice simple walk/jog patterns and headed back to the barn. Our ride lasted about 45 minutes. There wasn’t a single buck, shy or cow hop and there was no sign of her old tail-wringing and head-tossing. I’m still not thoroughly convinced we’ve put all our issues behind us, but this was certainly a HUGE improvement over the past and a great confidence builder for us both!

Big Girl Panties

IMG_6377(Bean & Tia)

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Last Friday was the day I decided to try riding Dharla back over to the boarding barn … alone. Since our return ride the Sunday before was so uneventful, I thought doing it again while our success was fresh in our memory might help. Of course, this time we wouldn’t have Bullet along to calm any jangled nerves when we came upon the dreaded cows.

Dharla was pretty unconcerned as we followed the old dirt road that lead in the direction toward the barn, but the minute we approached the paved road Dharla got noticeably more aware of her surroundings. He head went up, her ears pricked forward and I felt some hesitancy in her step. I didn’t change a thing, but just continued to think “forward” and kept my worries in check. Given it was the middle of the morning and we were on a dead-end road, there was absolutely no traffic. That was good because it meant we could casually walk down the center of the road and not have to worry about keeping over to one side or the other. It had obviously been garbage day for the neighborhood and most driveways had not one, but two large bins at the curb. Dharla gave the first set of bins we passed a wide berth, but once we got past those she didn’t seem at all concerned about the others.

It wasn’t long before we approached our most dreaded section of the road: the white picket fence and the field where the cows are pastured. As we approached the fence on the right Dharla stopped dead in her tracks. I let her take the scene in for about thirty seconds, then calmly asked her to move forward. Much to my utter surprise, she did! Seconds later, she saw the herd of cows on our left. Again, Dharla hesitated slightly, but when I squeezed gently with my legs she kept moving forward. She was on high alert, but she kept her whits about her and did as I asked. The only other place I expected any worries was on a shortcut through another horse property. We could see a small herd of horses in a distant pasture and they could see us, but they weren’t that close to us. Oddly, things that are off in the distance can be more nerve-wracking to some horses than things close up, but I can never predict exactly how Dharla will react in this kind of situation.  As soon as we entered the property the horses off in the field saw us. They whinnied and ran along their fence, putting Dharla on alert. Much to my pleasure (and surprise) Dharla stayed right “with me” and continued boldly forward. Good girl!

Once we got past those obstacles we were pretty much in the clear. We only had about 100 yards of paved road to ride. Our timing was good and it was relatively quiet, so I was nothing short of thrilled when a few minutes later we turned into the driveway of the stable! It’s almost hard to believe that a ride we struggled several times to complete last fall was accomplished with little to no fanfare. I’m ecstatic! This small success is one giant leap forward that will enable us to ride over to the stable and take more lessons this summer and fall! Yay, us!

Then There Were Three

IMG_0692(Bullet, near the end of winter, intent on his pile of hay)

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The ride home with Dharla was 100% uneventful. In fact, given she’d only been out on the trail once in six months, I was thrilled to see she didn’t lose her trail feet or trail sense one bit. She seemed happy to see Bully and they rode back to our farm like it’s something they’ve been doing every day.

The introduction with Rascal was a bit of a show. While none of the horses seemed to have truly bad intent, there was lots of front foot strikes and squealing … mostly on Dharla’s part. Pretty typical mare behavior I suspect. Bully more of less just tried to stay out of the line of fire and when all else failed, he munched on hay. It really helped that Bully is calm and sensible about most things and not given to hysterics or drama. After about an hour all three horses were eating their own hay and minding their own business for the most part. There was still the occasional squeal and faked attempt to lash out, but nobody was really serious about hurting anyone. Thank God! Rascal has turned out to be more pushy than I expected and though he’s small, he considers himself a contender! He’s still not sure if he want’s to keep Dharla from being too close to Bully or keep Bully from being too close to Dharla! He’s a funny one, that little stinker!

The day after Dharla arrived I was up and on her the next morning. We had a really great ride down the Airline Trail. While that’s not the most challenging ride, regular readers might recall that even after three years of consistent riding I was struggling with an over abundance of spookiness and skittishness on this trail. I don’t know if Dharla was just totally flummoxed to be out on the trail again (after 6 months of arena riding) or what, but she was like a totally different horse. Things I expected to spook her didn’t even get a rise out of her and the one or two times she kind of hesitated were so understated, they were barely noticeable. We did some nice long, slow, collected jogs and a couple of easy lopes all without any shenanigans what so ever. I was VERY pleased!

Later that afternoon I took Rascal out. We also had a nice loop through the woods together. Unfortunately, that night the weather turned back into crap. The temperatures dropped significantly and heavy rain moved in. After much discussion and debate, I finally decided to put Dharla in a stall for the night. It’s a wee bit too soon to expect the horses to have worked out all their hierarchy issues enough to share a small run-in on a cold, rainy night. Right now Dharla has the least amount of coat among the three, and she’s leaner than she’s ever been, so it was kind of an easy decision. Again, I was pleasantly surprised at how she didn’t fuss or stress at all at being shut inside. Normally this isn’t our usual MO, but since that’s what she’s been used to doing at the boarding barn I guess it didn’t bother her very much. I’m not sure if my horse has really matured in the six months she’s been gone or if I’m just seeing the effects of the time she spent in training, but either way I’m very pleased and I hope it lasts!

Oh, My Darling!

IMG_0956

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I had a great lesson on Dharla this morning. It was the kind of session where I came away feeling like we’re (finally) starting to work more like a real team. Needless to say, it’s been a long road!

I put Dharla in a training barn back in the beginning of October with the idea that I’d have her in training for a few months. Realistically, I was thinking maybe three months at most, but I planned on seeing how things went. Fortunately, I wasn’t married to a calendar, because while Dharla seemed to settle in quite well, getting us both used to the routine at a big barn was a bit challenging.

One of the first things we had to get used to was learning to ride with constant distractions. There were hay and grain deliveries, vet visits, and farriers working, not to mention the constant hubbub of daily life on a busy boarding farm: people constantly coming and going, horses frequently being shuffled in, out and around the farm, and the steady buzz of the Gator as chores commenced on a routine schedule. Meanwhile, both Dharla and I struggled to get accustomed to riding in a dark, shadowy indoor arena. Sometimes we were alone (scary for Dharla) and sometimes we were joined by anywhere from one (OK) to five (are you kidding me?) other riders. For a horse and rider with almost no experience riding in a crowded (or deserted) arena, this took some getting used to!

Then winter came. In early December it got frigidly cold and snowy, and it stayed that way until the last day of March. As a result, there was less turnout time for the horses, which translated into excess energy during rides. Oh, the horses got plenty of free time to run and play in the indoor arena, but that can’t take the place of several hours of fresh air and the freedom to move around at will. And then there was the dreaded snow-sliding-off-the-metal-roof. As I soon learned, that was the undoing of almost every horse at the barn. First I’d hear one person came off their horse when it spooked at the random whoosh of snow sliding off the roof above. Then another came off. And another. Before long everyone grew hyper-sensitive to the situation on the roof, and several riders even chose not to ride if the roof showed any sign of dumping it’s load.

Then we had to contend with the wind. The indoor arena is a large metal box with double sliding doors at both ends. No matter how hard we tried to secure those doors, the wind would constantly tug at them, making them rattle and bang. A steady wind was better and Dharla eventually came to accept the constant clanging at one end of the arena or the other. But if it was a gusty day and the doors banged at random, then that was another story altogether. I soon learned I’d have to contend with sporadic bucks and shies that the wind would produce.

Our winter rides were frustratingly up and down. I’d have a productive, communicative ride one day, followed by several rides where it felt like Dharla and I were on completely different planets. I was more than willing to go with the flow and do whatever it took to help Dharla feel more confident in her surroundings, but I must admit that I came home thoroughly frustrated more often than not. This brought me back to the same old, worn- out question I’ve faced since I bought Dharla almost four years ago. Am I the right rider for this horse?

We somehow managed to get through the worst of the winter. We had enough passable rides to keep me hopeful that with the arrival of spring we’d see a vast improvement in our environment and consequently, our ride. Unfortunately, I was very naive. The flurry of activity on the farm increased in direct proportion to the improvement in the weather. Not to mention, the New England show season started the last weekend of March. (Are they nuts? We had five inches of snow on the ground!) That means riders who were (mostly) absent during the worst of the winter are suddenly underfoot again, trying to make up for lost saddle time. The outside arena was (and continues to be) partially flooded. You’d think fixing the drainage in the outdoor arena would be a top priority, but so far that hasn’t been the case. Although it’s been an unusually wet and cold spring, everyone’s pretty psyched to start riding outside. However, with almost half of the arena under several inches of water, this makes for some pretty interesting rides. Especially when two or three people try to ride at the same time! And did I mention all the horses have spring fever? Yup, they’re pretty full of themselves too!

All nit-picking aside, when we began riding outdoors Dharla immediately showed signs of significant growth. Naturally, our first ride or two outside were a little super-charged and energetic, but she wasn’t over the top. And she didn’t give me hissy fits or temper tantrums over anything either! No shying at the far end of the arena, no bucks, no lines drawn in the sand. I was pretty amazed! When I take into consideration that I’m riding her in a brand new saddle and riding her with a level 2 Mylar bit, I’m pretty ecstatic about her mental progress. It feels like her work ethic has come a long way since we started our more “formal” training back in October.

One of the nicest changes I’m seeing is with our upward transitions. Dharla has always been comfortable transitioning from the walk to the jog, but transitions to a lope were usually accompanied by signs of tension and unease: a tail swish (or three), a head toss, and even a cow hop or two have been known to show up when I ask for a lope. (And sometimes I get all three!) So I’ve backed things down and kept the majority of our focus on making sure we’re really comfortable at the walk and trot. No sense picking up the pace if we’re not ready. Meanwhile, my trainer has been gradually working out the bugs with the lope.

Once Dharla got the reinforcement she needed and clear, consistent cues, she began to lose her stress over loping. She’s still a bit stiff and resistant when asked to lope off in a clockwise direction, but her right lead has always been her weaker side. I’ve also noticed that some of Dharla’s tendency to rush and push forward has eased up, and she’s starting to get more comfortable working at a relaxed, steady pace. These changes that I’m seeing may seem small, but the end result has been encouraging. I always knew Dharla had a lot of potential, I just didn’t think I could develop it by myself. Getting and working with the right trainer has been the best decision I’ve ever made. It hasn’t always been easy, but I’m so glad I went that route.

Now that spring is actually here I’m wrestling with the idea of bringing Dharla home for a while. She’s spent the last six months working hard and getting ridden a minimum of five days a week. A little change of pace might do her good. That said, she’s just recently turned a corner, which makes me hesitant to stop her progress right now. I’m really struggling to decide what to do. Fortunately, the barn owner and trainer are OK with me taking things month by month. If I decide she needs a break I’ll just ride her home. If she continues to make good progress then I’ll keep boarding her there. I still miss having her here at home, but she seems very comfortable where she is. That makes it easier for me to keep her there for now. When it gets hot and buggy I might change my mind. I’ll have to wait and see how much riding I’m willing to do when the heat and humidity arrive!

Spring Fling

IMG_0696

 

It’s been a LONG time since I’ve posted. yes, I’ve been busy. Yes, I’ve been riding. But it was a long, cold winter with lots of snow and bitter temperatures. Heck, it’s the second week of April and it’s STILL cold. And very windy. But at least the snow has melted, or pretty much so.

I’ve spent the better part of the last few months just letting Rascal settle in. It took about two months before I started to see his true personality, and I’m still making new discoveries every week. He was pretty shut down for awhile. That’s totally normal, I think. After all, Rascal had to endure some pretty major changes in his daily life. Mostly, I think he missed his owner. Given she had been the main presence in his life since he was two, they had a very special bond. I didn’t try to replace her, but simply gave Rascal time to process his loss and get acquainted with me. He’s a bit of a wary boy. Shy, and not overtly affectionate with strangers. But as the weeks wore on Rascal started to come out of his shell. I got fewer sidelong glances and the distance between us began to close. At some point he actually started to show a real interest in me and then I knew he’d turned the corner. He was settling in.

Inclement weather and/or lousy footing kept the opportunity to ride just out of my grasp. All told, I managed to sneak in three rides on Rascal before giving up and deciding to wait for the conditions to improve. What I observed on those few rides was a little horse with a lot of try and a few subtle quirks under the hood. Nothing I didn’t expect! I figured it would take some time for us to learn how to read each other and know what was expected. Rascal seemed a little wary about the trail and his surroundings, but with steady support he was willing to trust my judgement.

I’m not exactly sure how much trail experience Rascal has, so I plan to treat him as though he has none. That means giving him lots of time to get accustomed to and process the variety of things we’ll be seeing regularly out on our rides. Water, huge boulders and rocks, joggers running toward (and up behind) us, bicycles (most which will approach and pass us at high speeds), dogs, both loose (illegal, but a frequent occurrence) and leashed, and eventually cars, when we do a little dirt road riding. That’s a lot of things to condition a new horse to. And not knowing how Rascal will react to each new thing and in different settings, it’s a bit stressful for me. But so far Rascal has been taking most things in stride. He’s got Tia and Dharla’s distrust of large rocks and he’s not quite sure he likes crossing small streams. (Shallow puddles are fine.) We have yet to have a bicycle come up behind us, but when passed head-on he seems to handle it pretty well as long as we can move well off the side of the trail. (Not always feasible) It would appear he’s not thrilled about dogs. Even leashed dogs give him a bit of trepidation, but he doesn’t lose his marbles. He just kind of skitters sideways.

Rascal’s whoa needs a little refresher, and once stopped he doesn’t like to stand still. I’ll find lots of ways to work that practice into our rides. He has a wonderful little western jog, but his lope is a bit choppy and tentative. I think he has a nice comfortable lope in him, but he’s rusty, out of condition and a tad anxious. My plan is to do LOTS of walking, jogging and some hill work to get him back into shape before worrying about his lope. I can find plenty of things to work on while we wait for the arena dry up enough to use. Every now and then Rascal gets the idea in his head that he ought to turn around and go back the way we came. When that happens he does a bit of backing and scooting sideways. I’m not exactly sure what that’s all about, but we’ll work it out. I’m pretty sure I’m (inadvertently) miscuing him for something that I’ve yet to figure out. He’s sensitive and sometimes a tad willful, but not in a bad way. I have to chuckle at how quickly he’s learned his way around here. I’ve already noticed that his “going out” walk is half the speed of his “coming home” pace! He’s a smart boy!

I’ve been riding Dharla over at the “big barn” as often as possible, which translates into about 4-5 rides a week. She’s transitioned from full to partial training, which also has her getting ridden by the trainer three times a week. My progress with her (and consequently, my emotions) have been all over the map. But more about Dharla another time.

Spring has Sprung

IMG_6217

 

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I was riding quite a bit until I got bogged down supervising a seriously large landscaping project. We had a crew in to do more tree and landscape work around the new barn and it required being present to answer lots of on-the-spot questions. Try as I might, it was impossible to carve out enough time to get my routine chores done and the dogs exercised and have enough time left over to ride. Seemed like every time I thought I could break free I was needed to discuss and decide something or other. Unfortunately, that was also the nicest stretch of weather we’ve had this spring. Good for getting landscape projects done, but I think I may have missed some of the best spring riding. Today it’s windy and quite cold. The thermometer is barely showing a chilly 50 and it’s rainy and damp. They say tomorrow might be better, but that remains to be seen.

Dharla has been doing great! I’ve done some very nice trail rides as well as some good ring work. I’m please with her growth and maturity. The miles are starting to really pay off. Aldo still rides her once every other weekend or so, which means she’s getting exposure to things I won’t probably do with her when I ride. Not that we wuss out, but I ride predominantly alone so there are certain risks it doesn’t make sense to take. I have a neighbor who has ridden most of her life and was seriously injured in a riding accident last weekend. She was out trail riding alone. Good thing she was carrying a cell phone and was able to get a signal. I saw Lifestar fly over my house, but never dreamed it had someone I knew on board … with nine broken ribs and a punctured lung. Yeah, that made me recommit to wearing my helmet (I do!) and taking a few safety precautions before I hit the trail.

I’m hoping after the holiday I can get out and pick up where we left off. Perhaps this cold snap will keep the onslaught of bugs away for a few more weeks? Hot humid (non-riding) weather will be here before we know it and I’ll be dragging my feet again.

What happened?

 

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Spring, that’s what happened! The barn has been started (Yippee!) and to add to the chaos, both Aldo and I have been sick. Aldo came down with a fever and cold-like symptoms last Saturday night. He very rarely gets sick, so I quickly whipped up some homemade chicken soup and a few other comfort foods that I knew he’d eat. Meanwhile, all the chores which he typically covers on the weekend (to give me a little break), fell on my shoulders. No big deal. Even though I look forward to a little time off from my routine, I can rise to the occasion. The weather was damp, damp, damp, with lots of rain and cool muggy nights. Not the best kind of weather for a deep wracking cough and a fever. Unfortunately, by Tuesday night I knew I was going to follow suit and get sick.

I didn’t get the fever, but I got the congestion, a bad “unproductive” cough and a bucket load of exhaustion. Funny, how the same germs develop different symptoms for each host. Most colds go directly to my lungs and I’m prone to bronchitis, which is always a concern since I take antibiotics every day that can mask the symptoms of a more serious problem. Both of us were hitting the hay by 8:30 or 9, totally confusing the dogs who typically don’t go out for last call until 10:3o or so, but it was our hope that plenty of rest would purge this bug.

Upon waking Friday I launched into such a violent fit of coughing that I came dangerously close to dry heaves. Unfortunately, in the midst of coughing up a lung I pulled something in my lower back. It feels like a herniated disc. I know exactly what that feels like having lived with them (yes, plural) for a good eight years prior to my spinal fusion. But it can’t be that. I must have pulled or strained a muscle, or something to that effect.

So now my “cold” has improved somewhat, but my back not so much. I’m pretty miserable, especially since the last two days would have been drop-dead gorgeous days to ride. I tried to talk myself into going for a quiet little ride yesterday. I downed a few ibuprofen, changed my clothes, grabbed my helmet and stepped out the door, but the spasms stopped me. I knew I was kidding myself. I’m so good at blocking pain that I often talk myself into taking on stuff I have no business doing. So I went back inside and changed out of my riding clothes and put my stuff away. I spent some time just hanging out with Dharla, brushing her and just being with her. That was the best I could do.

Today the cold is so-so. I’m not coughing as much because I’m trying to guard my back I guess. The spasms are still there. Not good. I probably need to take a chill pill, but I’ve got too many things on my “to do” list right now.

Fail

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I meant to get out and ride yesterday, I really did, but my garden got in the way. I’ve got all my annuals and the handful of veggies I grow and once I have those staring at me I can’t relax until they’re planted and settled in. I thought I’d work on a few floral beds for a bit in the early morning, then saddle up and go for a ride. It was a perfect day for riding; not too hot, nice sun, big puffy clouds, a gentle breeze. But the more I did the faster time went and the next thing I knew it was noon. I took a little breather to rehydrate, then started right back up again, telling myself I’d take a break at one or two and ride. By the time that rolled around my back was shot and I knew I wasn’t in any shape to try to ride.

This is my dilemma. If I ride early, then my back is shot and I can’t get anything more done that day. If I postpone riding until after I’ve gotten a few things done, then I run the risk of my back being too fatigued to ride. While I’ve worked very hard to condition my back to withstand a lot more than I ever dreamed, I’m still far more limited than I like to admit. Normally, this isn’t a big problem except for those times of year when I have to get a lot done. Spring and fall are the heavy hitters.

So I didn’t get to ride. I did spend a good amount of time grooming both horses. I’m using that Bio Spot stuff for ticks and I think it makes them itchy like Advantix does with the dogs. So both horses had gone down back and found a nice muddy place to roll. I cleaned them up at morning feeding, then they went back down and rolled again. So they both got a repeat grooming session.

I don’t know if I’ll get the chance to ride today. The weather’s back to crap …. again. I live in the wrong place to have horses.

5-23-2012

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I so love this picture of The Bean. It’s not great by any means … the fence line obscures his nose and the resolution isn’t the best, but I love the fog, the spider webs clinging to the line and the fact that Beanie was alive and well at the time. He was waiting to be fed and not amused that I was taking pictures instead of taking care of him! He was such a pistol, that boy, and so missed. (Click on photo to better see details)

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I got out on Dharla today. I met up with the endurance ladies I talked about in an earlier post. I almost didn’t go because when I went out to the barn to get ready the sky was black with storm clouds. I’d checked the radar before I had a bite to eat and changed my clothes, but the sky certainly didn’t look like the image I saw on my computer! I called the girls and hedged. They had already loaded their horses and were about to head over to the trail head so we decided I’d wait fifteen minutes or so and see what the clouds did, then make my decision. Either they’d see me on the trail, or not.

About twenty minutes later the sky improved and I decided to take my chances. It was too muggy to pack a slicker and my saddle doesn’t have any means to carry anything anyhow. If we got a sudden soaker I was just going to have to get wet. Dharla and I headed off in the direction we were supposed to go and about fifteen minutes later I saw the girls coming my way. Once we were together we had to figure out where we wanted to ride. It’s been raining quite a lot and we concluded the woodsy trails would be pretty slick. Because those trails are narrow and hilly, we reluctantly chose to stay on the Airline Trail, which is flat and rather dull. One advantage of riding the Airline Trail though, is that you aren’t constantly getting slapped in the face with wet leaves like you are on the woodsy trails after it’s rained!

I don’t know squat about endurance riding except to say that those ladies M-O-V-E! Thank goodness my sweet girl is in tip-top shape because we did one fast hustle down the trail! Actually, I like the fact that their horses walk out very fast. Dharla’s walk has gotten a bit poky from riding with Bullet, who has the slowest walk on the planet. So it was good for her to have to shake a leg to keep up! Trotting speed was no problem, she staryed right up with them. The lead horse had a wonderfully steady pace which is good for Dharla, who, in her inexperience, sometimes struggles to keep a steady rhythm going.

I must say that my horse performed beautifully. She was in full-blown standing heat and this was only the fifth time she’s ridden with a strange group of horses (and only the second time she’s seen this duo). She was a perfect lady the entire time. No fussing, no insisting she get too close or sniff anyone, no squealing and whinnying when we parted company a bit later. Gosh, I’m so thrilled with her temperament! That’s not to say she wasn’t a little amped up when we started out as a group … she was. But she quickly learned that she needed to conserve her energy for the long trots and pushing her speed wasn’t a good idea. I just kind of let her figure things out in her own head and only gave her a few checks here and there.Her recovery after every long trot was amazing … her sides weren’t even moving! Ah, to be young and be an Arabian!

I, on the other hand, was exhausted when I got home. My lower back was shot from so much posting. Even though I ride all the time I’m at such a disadvantage with my back problems. I’m not sure what I’m going to do about that, but I’m thinking I need to increase my core training a bit to try to compensate. In all fairness, some of my discomfort was due to the fact that I’d been doing a lot of work around the house prior to riding, but still. It’s frustrating to be so uncomfortable.

I’m back to riding lessons starting next week. (Yay!) It’s about time! I lost the entire spring with my eye issues. I’ve got some things I want to work on. I know it’s a hunter/jumper barn, but I want to work on my basics. I started doing a bit of jumping at the end of last year, and as fun as that is, I don’t think I’ve mastered some of the more subtle stuff I’m looking to improve. I know I give the appearance of having it together, but I want to fine-tune my timing, cues and feel. I know it would be best if I could board Dharla and take my lessons on her (or haul her over), but that’s not possible right now so what I may do is ask my instructor if she would come here once a month and work with us. We’re only a ten-minute drive. We did that a few times last spring and it really helped. We’ll see!