February 9, 2011 1 Comment
The thermometer was hoovering near zero late this afternoon when I shut my laptop down, pushed back from the desk, and started to consider my trip to the barn. The second day of extremely frigid temperatures in a row, I knew that the horses stayed in today, and I suspected that the footing in the arena would be frozen. So I dug out my warmest long-johns – the thick, waffle-weave kind – and over them put a pair of too-big jeans so I’d be comfy. I added more layers – a turtleneck and a thick fleece jacket. I stuck toe-warmers in my boots, swaddled my head in a fleece headband, wool stocking cap and a long scarf, and dove into my coat. Grunting, I struggled to put on my boots, as all the layers were rendering me close to immobile. I grabbed my keys and waddled out to my car.
Upon arrival, I was pleasantly surprised to see the barn lights glowing – normally, I’m the only lunatic that goes out on sub-zero nights. However, I was in good company tonight – Liz, a fellow Packer fan and OTTB owner, was visiting Cloud. Turns out the arena footing wasn’t too bad, and she was riding.
Hmm. What the heck, I decided, pulling a sleepy Maddie out of her stall. Hanging out inside makes her mellow, if you can believe that. She dozed while I scurried around, picking her hooves, surveying the filthy, frozen mess she made of her tail (I still don’t know what she got into, and, frankly, I don’t want to know) and tacking her up. I tucked her quarter sheet around her fanny, and plopped my freezing cold helmet on my head. Happily, I had warmed up sufficiently and removed my coat – one less layer was a good thing at this point.
Mounting was interesting. In addition to feeling like a mummy, my too-big jeans kept slipping down around my hips, resulting in a poor (and monstrously unflattering) imitation of the urban-youth-pants-down-around-the-knees look. I hiked up my pants, clambered up the mounting block, and finally when the mare (and the pants) stayed put, I got on.
The arena footing was definitely iffy in areas, so as I let the mare snort and stretch, I went through my options. I still wanted a to have a productive ride. But, given the footing, the freezing air and my woeful attire, it wasn’t a good night to work hard, and focus on moving the mare forward. Still contemplating my options, I thought about a recent blog post Christy did, telling about a ride on Liam during which she worked exclusively at the walk.
I decided that responsiveness would be the rule of the day. As we warmed up, I started asking for bend from my seat, and threw in a lot of random halt transitions. We practiced (semi-successfully) staying round in the halt, and the upward and downward transitions. As we walked, I also tried to keep Maddie really busy. She has the unfortunate habit of sticking her tongue out when we walk. I’ve found that the best remedy is to keep her focused and working. I also worked on left bend, being sure to give my left rein. This went pretty well, though there were some incidents of bracing and mare foolishness. However, we got through it, and even got some nice circles and shoulder in – we had some moments of good contact and stretch, which were encouraging.
I trotted Mads a bit, not asking for much from her but insisting on responsive, right now transitions, and also asking her to stay round and stretching. We moved around as much as we could, but there were some patches in the middle of the ring that were pretty solid, and after one pass, Mads (who is barefoot) made it clear that those patches didn’t feel good, so I tried to avoid them for the rest of the ride.
To mix things up a bit, and to keep working on responsiveness, we practiced a variety of transitions – trot/halt, halt/walk/halt, halt/trot/halt etc. Mads was fairly well attuned to me and again, we had some nice moments, but she was also distracted by some barking dogs and a horse kicking the walls in the back aisle, adjacent to the arena. I got after her but not to the degree I would have had we really been working, and I was less happy with how I handled that part of the ride.
All in all, riding tonight was a pleasant surprise. I’m glad I did, because even though it was a pretty gentle ride, it was more exercise for the cooped-up mare. And tomorrow, well, let’s just say the prospects are grim. It’s going to be crazy cold tonight, and I’m certain that footing is going to freeze.
Back in the barn, I groomed Mads, put her heavyweight back on, and stuck her in her stall. She hovered near the door, ignoring her hay and telegraphing what can only be described as pathos with her tragic expression. What was her problem? Ah, well, you see, upon arrival at the barn, I had whipped up a batch of her nightly mare mush, a glorious concoction of beet pulp shreds and alfalfa cubes, soaked in hot water until soft, fluffy and steamy, and then laced with molasses. Mads needs to gain a little more weight, and in extremely cold weather like this, getting some extra hydration into the horse’s system is a bonus. That’s all well and good, but then I went and set the steaming bowl of mush on my trunk to cool. Right outside Maddie’s stall.
She stared disconsolately at the mush, inhaling the delicious fumes. I finally relented and (after testing the temperature) gave the poor starving mare her mush.
It is soooo good. At least she seems to think so.
Satisfied, I headed home. I was feeling pretty good until my car told me it was -12 degrees outside. Yikes!