Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Good ride, times two

Yesterday I played hooky from work and spent all afternoon with my horses. The promised ice storm never materialized, and the weather was great. All day, it was 32, cloudy, and no wind. Cold enough for the horses to be alive, but not so windy as to cause any human whining. ;)

Champ, Cersei, and I went exploring. He is such a lazy monster when he's bored, so I took us off the usual route down some deer trails and that woke him up. I'm usually fairly chatty when I'm riding alone - whistling turns in our route to the dog, discussing our progress with Champ - but for some reason I shut up and stayed quiet. (I get especially noisy if I think someone else is in the woods with me - paranoid is safe.) Nobody was out, except for a few deer. The slightly misty still air really muffled the normal sounds, and I felt like I was a million miles from civilization.

I love our little hills. I love the primeval oak/cottonwood/pecan forests, and the eerily quiet pine groves, and the new scrubby elm regrowth over what was a cotton field 50 years ago. I know everybody else has special places to ride too - the lush Pac NW, soggy green-and-red Hawaii, the frozen and well civilized NE, and of course ancient England with its millennia of people - but I love my little pocket of the world. It's like my horses - there's nothing objectively special about it, but it means everything to me. :3

Anyway, I found a deer meadow. I checked very carefully before I ventured out into it, and there's just one (perfectly placed) deer stand with nobody in it. And there's grass, fresh green grass! Champ felt well rewarded. I let him snack for a long time, then we cantered a bit.

I need to remember to ask Hardy how one rides a trot to canter. I mean, I'm posting, so I tend to keep kinda-posting when Champ switches gears. I'm not nearly as stiff as I used to be - I used to balance in the stirrups and cling in two point like a crazy little monkey - but it's hard for me to actually SIT DOWN and follow the canter.

I was just delighted when we headed home. It felt like a completely perfect day, but it was only about 2 pm. I decided to push my luck - and my perfect day - and ride Dixie.

We did a couple laps around the field while she got the zoomies out of her system, then I started thinking. What was I trying to accomplish? Was I trying to get her legged up, cardio-wise, or was I trying to (don't laugh!) school her? I know it sounds ridiculous for me to say it, but I decided to school her.

I know, all too well, how little I know. But I don't know anybody local who knows more about gaited horses and classical training. I don't want to send her off for training and have her come back trotting and cantering, even if she'd come back standing like a rock for me to mount and steering perfectly. And she gaits, which is all gaited horse people care about. (Steering is for wusses!) And I suppose I could dither around for another year, trying to learn more and become a better rider, afraid to ride my best horse for fear I'll mess her head up worse. But really? That's what I did for the first year I had her. She's unwound, mentally, quite a bit, and her feet have healed and grown out normally, and that's about it.

So we schooled. I decided I'd work on her steering, work on rating her speed, and work on my hands and her acceptance of the bit. I've gotten an excellent woah on her - when I let out a big sigh and sit back, she'll usually stop or at least half-halt. My hands were finally really good. She actually stayed calmer and happier when I kept contact on her mouth and kept my leg aids active. I did the same thing I'd done with Val - deliberately did not look at her head, or the reins, or my hands, and tried to feel the reins and follow her head.

I am pleased to report that we finished the ride calmer than when we started. She wasn't worn out, and she was listening to me and soft and responsive. We have thousands of miles left to go on our journey - her training is more gaps than not - but that was a good ride.

Cersei, by the way, fell asleep while eating dinner. I feed her raw, and when she's super-tired like that is the only time I regret it. Poor girl, ran nonstop for 4 hours and then has to actually crunch her dinner apart! I predict she'll sleep all day today then be rarin' to go again by tonight.


  1. Sounds fantastic. But let me get this have a dog that falls asleep while eating in a multi-dog household? Tell her that my dogs are laughing at her.

  2. Nah, it's a one-dog three-cat household. And she eats in her crate - otherwise, the cats would try to take her food and she'd (accidentally) kill them.

  3. Ah...I thought there was Jaime too. Confused, I guess. It's still kind of pathetic according to my dogs.

  4. Oh made me drool over your wooded and varing tree'd ride!
    Sounds so good I could eat it.
    Nice day for hooky and so unusual for you...quiet. But the million miles from civilization and quiet ..heaven.
    Your neck of the woods is special sounding and I an tell why you love it so.
    Cersei really slept huh!

  5. dp - It's been just Cersei for almost a year. I had to rehome Jaime in January or February. It was a really hard decision, but he was miserable in an apartment and literally destroying everything. He couldn't go 30 minutes inside a house without peeing or chewing. I had him for over a year and I tried every training method I could.

    Obviously I still feel guilty. :( He's living with one of my dad's friends now, with a pack of dogs in the country.

    Anyway - thanks, Kacy! It really is beautiful country around here. This is home, deep in my soul. :)

    Also there is something wrong with my damn mac. There's like a 3 second delay between keypresses and when the actual typing shows up in my browser. I am very frustrated! Hopefully a big round of patching and rebooting will fix it, grrrr.


Feel free to comment!