December 7, 2013 1 Comment
Last winter, prior to his surgery, I barely rode Derby. Our November and December weather here in northern IL is typically marked by wild temperature swings, and he was tough for me to handle. He was spooky and reactive, teleporting across the arena when a door opened and spooking at invisible gremlins. I loaded him him up with calming supplements, swaddled him in quarter sheets, and muddled my way through the coldest months.
We did a lot of ground work. That’s no way to live.
Fast forward twelve months, to this week. The temperatures have been crazy – on Wednesday night, it was 55 degrees, and Derby got a bath after our lesson. Two days later, the lows were hovering near zero. And we’ve been riding through it all, and it’s been great.
What’s the difference? My riding, pure and simple. The frustrating months spent battling my knee and rebuilding my everything appear to have paid off. I’m keeping Derby connected and through, working over his back and one the aids. I can’t begin to describe the monumental change this made in my ability to keep Derby focused. His behavior has been stellar. And I can put him on the bit right from the get go, and for the most part, I’m keeping him there.
On Thursday, we rode through an old intro test, and I was astounded at how well it rode. Christy commented that it better than she’d ever see us look. All of this gives me hope, because I know unequivocally that I wasn’t riding him well last winter, and at shows where we had problems. He wasn’t on the aids and connected. He was able to spook and evade and be ridiculous, because I allowed him to do so. I’m learning to manage the ride, from start to finish.
Today we had another breakthrough. It was cold – really cold. As in about 15 degrees. While I have not been giving Derby calming supps this year, I do use a quarter sheet (and a Back on Track pad) on very cold days.
Derbs was chill at the outset, but then got really behind my leg, and started to hint at some stupidity. I thought to myself “I need to get off, take off the quarter sheet, and pick up a whip.”
So I did. Like Linus giving up his security blanket, I was a bit trepidatious as I took the sheet off, but thought “What the hell,” and went back into the arena. Anything is better than fighting a horse that is behind your leg .
At the first sign of balking, Derby got a crack with the whip, and he gave the right answer, snapping to attention and getting to task. The second half of our ride was really nice, and we had good energy.
I closed out the ride working on my left leg, which is still persistently unsteady. It just needs to get stronger, and it is, but not fast enough for my tastes, which is why I’m starting private Pilates lessons next week, and am looking into Feldenkrais work too.
We’re going to have a great winter!