Oh what a night!
February 10, 2011 2 Comments
Today was chilly, but the temps climbed throughout the day, and by the time I headed to the barn, it was a balmy 10 degrees. That’s 22 degrees warmer than last night, and it felt pretty good.
After my impromptu ride with Liz last night, I wanted to ride again. I was expecting the footing to be frozen, so I decided to set up a little obstacle course to give the horse something different to look at. I pinged Liz and Christy, and we made a riding date.
Happily the footing had actually improved over the course of the day. I set up the obstacles anyway – variety is always a good thing. I put out a couple raised poles, laid a pole between two jump standards that looked like gates, and arranged four cones in a zigzag pattern.
We cranked the tunes, and Maddie and I joined Liz and Christy in the arena, admiring the boys’ matching sheets. Aren’t they handsome?
We took our time warming up. I moved the mare around, marveling at how mellow she was, despite being cooped up for a few days. Liam and Cloud were also model citizens, and we joked about our hot and crazy TBs as we rode around on the buckle.
My plan for the ride was evolving – the footing was decent, and I was wearing more appropriate attire (my Mountain Horse full seat insulated riding pants – they’re extremely warm.) We started out curving around the cones, walking through the gate, and high-stepping over the raised poles.
We moved off into a trot, and I made an effort to get the mare moving. I wasn’t asking for a big, forward trot, but I did want her to round and track up. She fussed a bit and was bracing. I sat up an rode, giving her a whack with the whip that I’m sure she barely felt thanks to the thick quarter sheet draped over her hindquarters. However, that got her attention, and she started to come into my hand and quit the fussing.
As I was gaining Maddie’s cooperation, I kept an eye on Christy. I don’t get to watch her ride as much as I’d like to, and I’m always curious to see what she’ll do. Tonight, she was really just letting Liam stretch, and he appreciated it, trotting enthusiastically around the arena, doing laps of stretchy trot.
As I developed better contact and a rounder horse, I started to stretch her down. I’ve not ridden a lot of stretchy trot – it makes me feel a bit vulnerable and I’m not fully comfortable with it. It’s something I need to practice. Mads started to stretch, while also staying on the bit.
I concentrated on holding the outside rein, and playing gently on the inside rein to keep myself from holding it to heavily (a bad habit I have) and to encourage the mare to continue to stretch.
I really wanted to keep her on the bit, near vertical, and keep driving her forward as we stretched. As we went around, I heard something beautiful, and it wasn’t the radio. It was Christy, saying that we looked good. That was music to my ears, because Christy doesn’t offer empty compliments.
Unbeknownst to me, she had taken out her phone and started recording some video. I’m glad she did – it was nice to see our work.
I continued to encourage her with my inside leg while feeding her rein. I’m going to have to bite the bullet and get warmblood length reins – I hit the buckle before she was as low as I wanted her to go. I had to stretch my arms to give her more room. We didn’t get all the way there, it wasn’t a stretch that would get a good score in the ring, but I was happy. The trot quality was good, and she was over her back and nicely on the bit. I’ll take it, on a 10 degree night.
And the video clip of the stretching (thanks again, Christy.)
The fun didn’t end there. Liz was riding Cloud bareback, and they looked fantastic. Christy pulled Liam’s saddle off, and joined her. They both have such nice, balanced seats, and they stay in tune with their horses as they trotted and cantered. They tried some peer pressure, trying to get me to try going bareback on Maddie. I wasn’t quite ready for that tonight – I still need to master trotting and cantering without stirrups. I did promise to pull the saddle in a lesson sometime soon. I’ll let you know how that goes!