Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Slightly Larger (but still small) Victories

Yesterday, my mental state was meager (at best). I was exceptionally exhausted from an exceptionally great time up at the cabin with good friends celebrating my birthday.  I was so tired, that regardless of the multiple tumblers of coffee I ingested, I was still somehow struggling to stay awake during meetings, at lunch and while sitting at my desk.  I also finally stepped up and declined to return to my coaching position for the fall.  Coaching at my old high school has been a massive joy for me the last several years, but the time, commute and energy required to guide 15 adolecant girls after a full day of other work definitely took it's toll on every other aspect of my life.  A few factors combined to make me question whether or not I would be able to give it my all this year (including increaed travel for work), but given where P is at this point, and everything else, I think that she deserves my undivided attention and enegery for the next few months.

So between the physical exhaustion and mental energy that went into the coaching conversation, at a certain point the idea of me being productive was just absurd, so I ducked out early to go pay board, slip the mare a peppermint and beat it home to hibernate for the night...

 happy pony nose!

The most pleasant surprise of the day came when I pulled up at the barn and the BO had P in the crossties and was just getting ready to tack her up.  So I got to watch P get her little bit of body work which she seemed to mostly enjoy.  Lots of muscle rolling and light palpitations - and P only seemed to object (with a tiny, baby squeak) to her lumbar.  I'm definitely on the same page as the BO though, whether this is helping or not, it's resulted in a couple days of good quiet work, so we're sticking with it.

The BO has also been starting each ride out with an in-hand walk around the entire ring, just to get a baseline of how distracted/looky the mare is each day, and yesterday she was loose, swinging, and completely relaxed the entire way around (even past the big scary mirrors, and past the big scary gelding!)

I was so nice to see Pia's eyeballs firmly in their sockets instead of popping out looking for monsters in every corner and her entire demeanor looked exceptionally relaxed. 

We started joking that at this rate we were going to be more superstitious than old baseball players..  Just you wait... in 3 weeks I'm going to be talking about our pre-ride routine and how "as long as we massage her for 3 minutes, walk the ring once, hop twice and clap," we'll have a great calm ride... Please tell me if we start getting ridiculous, but for the moment, if it works, we're keeping it until Miss P starts displaying some serious consistency.

Anyway - Back to her ride:

P was a star.  BO still lunged her for a moment (literally 4 minutes).  There were no crazy gallops, no bucks, no head shaking, nothing.  Pia was super duper responsive to half halts and adjustments at both the trot and canter, moving from slower, shorter gaits to bigger more forward movement.  I was so excited at how well she was listening and that there were no attempts at evasion, not. a. single. one. 

Another neat thing? BO uses totally different vocal commands than what P was initially trained with and what I've used, yet she's already figured them out.  She is such a smart, sensitive cookie it continues to surprise me.  Once we figure out how to keep her from getting in her own head, she's going to be such a stud...

After a few transitions each way, BO pulled her in and got ready to get on.  Remember last week when Pia spent like 20 minutes spinning in circles around the mounting block and refused to stand still?  yeah... not today! She stood like a square, solid statue while side reins came off, stirrups came down and the BO got on.  Good Mare!!

She was a little sticky in refusing to go forward, but other than that, P was a good girl.  Not one kick, not one buck, nothing aside from some stickiness.  When she was moving forward, she looked great.  BO threw in some leg yields at the trot, and she has really started to understand that particular question.  There was some mild tail swishing to start, but once she figured out that sideways was an option, she sat down, pushed, and got some really nice crossover.

Her canter work wasn't spectacular, but the transitions were clean and there were no major objections... so I'm happy with that.

She probably only worked for about 20 minutes under saddle, but it was all happy and productive and showed none of the anxiety, sweating or nervousness that she was displaying last week.  Also, it was her first time at the new barn working with another horse in the ring, and she wasn't disrupted at all.  She came out of the ring looking just as pleased and calm as she was going in, which is much more important progress for me than how long she's trotting, or getting the perfect bend at this point. 

The BO and I had a nice debrief discussing goals and our time line.  I emphasized that at this point, I just want to see her getting calm and staying calm while being worked and making sure that we are taking small enough steps that the mare understands her job and stays happy.  She agreed, and I think we are on a good path for that.

Who knows if it's the couple days of Soothing Pink, the bodywork, or just P's own decision to relax, but I'm just thrilled with how she's looking and acting.  It's a relief to see her so happy!

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